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join the discussion: Who's to blame for the Enron debacle? Should accountants be held more accountable?


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am an American CPA (ashamed to be one though)and an English Chartered Accountant. What surprises me is that it is so easy to uncover these shenanigans in the early stages.

At the center of every corporate scandal there is a Corporate Executive, CFO, Lawyer, Banker and Secretary.

There should be a law that one has a duty to disclose any improper activity otherwise one is just as guilty for non disclosure.

One should go to jail if guilty (not a camp). All those who knew and or participated and did not disclose should also be jailed.

I can assure you that we have only uncovered the tip of the corpoate iceberg. There are a lot of CPA's running scared.

The corporate worls is rife with self dealing because there is no real punishment.

All this would cease if we had a legal obligation to disclose and if Sing Sing was a guarateed reward for our corruption.

In England you are required to expense stock options. Why is it so difficult in the land of milk and honey? Only the weak oppose it.

There should be corporate hot line to disclose corporate wrongdoings. The public shuld be educated to do this.

How many News organizations have interviewed the head of the American Society of Cerified Public Accountants to see what he has done reargding all the crooks in his organization.

walnut creek, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

As Mr. Levitt said on this program, there has been a cultural change in America. I say yes, a change from "love thy neighbor" to "selfishness." Not do what is right, but do what enriches me or feels good. Of course, it not politically correct to quote the 10 commandements, or the teachings of the Bible; rather, the new American morality is "tolerate" everyone and everything, don't blame anyone, morality is a relative thing, don't challenge feminists who are liberating women from "drab" lives of raising children (tomorrow's leaders) which happens to be the most important "job" in the world. The breakdown of the traditional family of Father AND Mother is producing children who are poorly raised, psychologically scarred, confused, and morally weak. Some of these morally weak children are now adults working for the Enrons and the Arthur Andersens.

David Conner
macon, georgia


Dear FRONTLINE,

An excellent program! PBS has become one of the few sources of substantive, indepth and comprehensive coverage of the important news that effects our lives. THANK YOU!

There are so many questions that the media is not addressing on this topic. Why is Andersen still working on a project connected to the FBI restructuring? This is a huge conflict given the FBI's supervisory role in collection of evidence, etc. for this case. And this detail has been of little interest to the mainstream investigative news sources. Why did it take so long to step in and prevent the document shredding? Why didn't Andersen, Enron and other corporations under investigation have their questionable overseas accounts frozen? And I've just seen that on Friday evening, NOW with Bill Moyers will be reporting on why the big Wall Street firms are moving legislation through Congress that would prevent states from prosecuting them if they violate security laws!

This is not just conflict of interest or a case of weak willed pols...this is criminal activity....and lobbying seems to be a "legal" form of bribe and extortion. My only hope is that the big Wall Street Firms and titans of Finance along with their political shills are cutting their own throats and WILL go down with this ship though the band will keep playing until the very end.

Paul Jordan
nyc, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a pragmatic liberal Democrat. As such I looked with distaste on Green votes for Nader and the resulting election of G.W. Bush. Yet, your show demonstrates that Nader had a point about Republicans and Democrats both being too beholden to monied interests.

It is particularly sad to me that Sen. Liberman, a supposed liberal concerned with the public interest, would be so in denial about the corrosive effect of nontransparent accounting, including the absence of expensing of stock options. On the other hand, perhaps he is not in denial, and his local accounting industry ties just demonstrate Tip O'Neal's point that all politics are local.

Well, I still would not be caught dead voting for Nader to the joy of Bush et. al.. But, Senators Liberman, Dodd and Tauzin have demonstrated themselves not worthy of their current offices, much less higher office.

Dave Skjeie
manhattan beach, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

I wish more programs like this were aired on prime time. I'm afraid PBS may have only scratched the surface of a disease that permeates America in general and Wall Street in particular. I humbly suggest PBS investigate the Federal Reserve and the Central Banks of the world. Wait until you see what is going on in with regard to the manipulation of gold. Enron and Anderson pale in comparison. Please, someone at PBS, take a look.

Bernie S.
tulsa, ok.


Dear FRONTLINE,

Superb program (as usual). I am a retired accountant, a former member of a 'profession' where the national firms made all the rules. They are still doing it. Many years ago I worked as a controller at a corporation in which a Professor of Accounting at one of the most major Universities was the Treasurer. He ordered me to prepare a financial statement for a major bank that I knew to be fraudulent. I did not want to do it, and he said, "You're an old fashioned accountant." I did prepare the financials, and then he ordered me to hand deliver these lies. I took them to the bank and told the V.P. the complete story. The next morning there were three bank auditors on the premises before the doors were unlocked. I resigned that morning.

Should not there be an investigation of Accounting Departments at the Universities that turn out these graduates?

Irwin R. Langs
canoga park, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Why should anyone be surprised about accounting irregularities. After all, accounting firms are no different than any other for-profit company. What puzzles me is why people expect accounting firms, or any other part of corporate America to behave any differently.

All for-profit business exists to increase shareholder wealth. From an ethical perspective, that means all of their business decisions are predicated on that single principle. How you achieve that is largely irrelevant, just so long as profits keep increasing. To change this reality, the guiding principle must change. For accounting firms, this means that profit(s) must be supplanted by some other guiding principle; namely, the guardianship of the publics' ability to make informed decisions regarding financial information. Ironically, this is FASB's first principle. How sad it is then to see that it's become nothing more than words on a page for the likes of Anderson and the other major accounting firms.

Thomas Lenzmeier
st. paul, minnesota


Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for a very insightful - and disturbing - program. I was not all that surprised by what I saw, but was perhaps even more disgusted by the Bush appointee, Pitts, and his total lack of sincerity and conviction to make any changes whatsoever.

To address the question of Who is to blame: It's not just one easy answer but certainly part of it is that this country is inextricably caught up in a web of cronyism bred from corporate greed. Corporate lobbyists are the ones who run this country now. It's scary, and I like the other viewer's comparison to the Roman Empire. I have a feeling we've only begun to see the collapse much like what happened in 1929 after incredible economic success and excess.

orange county, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

I enjoyed the documentary. The problem that I had with it though is that it doesn't really put anything in perspective. It makes it seems like the crisis boils down to some people in key positions who acted badly, who succombed to greed. I believe that the problem is much deeper. I don't think that this kind of scandal is new. We are just repeating history. To understand the behavior of the corporate chiefs, the accounting firms, the Wall Street companies, the politicians, the SEC -- and yes, the news stations that glorify them -- I recommend a small book by John Kenneth Galbraith written in the 1950s called The Great Crash. It's about 1929. I don't know whether what is going on is a precursor to a big financial crash that ushers in a period of economic depression. I guess no one does.

But the parallels are truly remarkable -- with this difference: today, what is going on is on an incomparably larger scale than what happened in the 1920s. I would hope that the two distinguished columnists on this web site, Brooks and Kutner, could shed some light on all this.

Ellis Greenfield
burbank, ca

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
The email dialogue between David Brooks of The Weekly Standard and Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect can be found here.


Dear FRONTLINE,

This was a great Frontline !!! Unfortunately many will not see it. And those that do will feel frustrated at not being able to properly address these problems. Even though I lost a large sum of money on the stock market I do not think that voting with my feet i.e. not investing additional funds will work. Institutional investors control 70% of the market. We small investors will be ignored. I am profoundly disappointed by all this.

David Weissfeld
los angeles, california


Dear FRONTLINE,

We appreciate the very informative program. It appears that our economy is a house of cards -It is frightening to think that Harvey Pitt is now in charge of the SEC.

It seems that there is a very good reason for investor confidence to be so low. The former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt seems to be one of the few honorable men out there and now that he's gone where does that leave us?

los angeles, ca


Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

Yes, there are crooks among us. What a surprise! But why not look at the real crooks in America. The Congress of the United States. The government accountinng practices are far worse than anything presented in tonights program. Let's look at the biggest train wreck of all - Social Security. The accounting tricks, slieght of hand, and out and out lies are going to cost the American People far more than anything the Enrons, Sunbeams, etc can do. Why not an expose' on this? All the data is there for those who wish to probe. The Cato web site is a good place to start and should be required reading for any concerned taxpayer. If you care to look at it, Corporate America is doing what our own government is doing - cook the books to make things look better. The difference is, I don't have to buy stock, which is the biggest fear of Corporate America, but I do have to pay taxes!

Arthur Nace
mesa, az.


Dear FRONTLINE,

By definition, they are accountable. They must be accountable. They suborned -- they were complicit in the activities of their Enron clients.

However, while it was the laws of economics that buried Enron -- the market's verdict -- it was the interpretation of the laws, narrowly administered by the judge and applied by the jury, that sunk andersen. As I reflect on it, it is impossible to imagine andersen ceasing to exist as a firm had Enron not gone down so completely. Yet andersen's transgression would have been the same.

Another way of putting this is that Anderson is guilty of a kind of second degree rather than a first degree or capital offense. All that said, as Jay Lorch of Harvard so incisivelyh pointed out on The Connection, none of the punishments meted out over Waste Management or Sunbeam has prevented recurrence in other areas.

The system itself has to change. Consciousness has to change first. But as one money manager noted once the NASDAQ surpassed 5000, the only way this mania can end now is in total pain. There is no soft landing from here.

Jack Louis
cambridge, mass


Dear FRONTLINE,

Unfortunately, the program paints with a broad brush. In my experience in dealing with auditors over many years, I am convinced that the vast majority of them do the right thing, and stand up to wayward clients. We do not hear about those battles fought behind closed doors - and there are many - where auditors cause managements to change their course away from the use of wrong accounting.

That is not to minimize the significance of the recent audit failures. But we need to have a balanced picture of the environment. However, the vast majority of auditors who abide by the profession?s standards and perform their functions with integrity leaves room for a small minority of those whose behavior must be changed, or who otherwise must be forced out of the accounting profession.

The biggest problem has been the commercialization of accounting firms, for which at least some of the blame can be traced back to government-imposed removals of the profession's own restraints on accounting firms' marketing of services.

I support the SEC's efforts to strengthen the regulation of the accounting profession. I believe the Commission?s proposal deserves a fair hearing.

Robert Richter
newtown square, pennsylvania


Dear FRONTLINE,

Corruption, greed, lack of integrity, a congressional and excutive branch that are for the most part a disgrace.That is what I learned tonight from watching "Bigger Than Enron".

We don't need "Homeland Security". The Taliban just need to wait. Our country is destroying itself with the help of Captiol Hill and the White House.

Hedrick Smith and Frontline deserve the highest honors for keeping our citizens informed. Now. if they will just vote!

John L.Hyde

John L. Hyde
ithaca, ny

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