A Critique of Shareholder Value
- The Cournot Centre series
Chapter 8: Reinterpreting the Financial Scandals of the Enron Era
8. Reinterpreting the ﬁnancial scandals of the Enron era On 16 October 2001, Enron announced an exceptional expense of $500 million for hedging with LJMs 1 and 2, companies managed by Enron’s own Chief Financial Oﬃcer (CFO). The result was a loss of $638 million in the third quarter, after a proﬁt of more than $400 million the quarter before. On 17 October, the personal enrichment of the CFO, to the sound of $30 million, was made public by the Wall Street Journal. On 22 October, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation. From that point on, nothing could break the fall. The stock price collapsed, and ratings agencies lowered their assessments. On 2 December, Enron was placed under bankruptcy protection according to Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. At $63 billion in assets, this has been the largest bankruptcy in US history. In terms of stock market capital that vanished, the loss inﬂicted on shareholders was considerable: at the end of November, the stock traded at 26 cents. For Enron’s 27 000 employees in 40 diﬀerent countries, the damage was just as heavy. They lost their jobs, and their retirement fund evaporated. The in-house pension fund, based on the 401(k) Plan and thus exempted from the ERISA law imposing diversiﬁcation, had been 60 per cent invested in Enron shares (Bratton, 2002). Enron’s bankruptcy was remarkable not only for the sheer magnitude and extent of the disaster, but also because it hit such...
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