Monday, March 11, 2013

Fun facts about corporate accounting scandals

Regular readers will know that we have a soft spot for corporate responsibility infographics. The one below, which recently crossed our desk courtesy of, provides a nice overview of some of the big corporate accounting scandals of the last 15 years or so. The title may be misleading - it hardly seeks to capture the biggest scandals of "all time" - but it does give a good summary of those that have happened in recent memory. And the sources of the details they provide are cited - most of which (but not all) are pretty reliable. So if you want a five minute summary of all that's wrong in the world of accounting fraud, and you don't mind a strong US bias, this is a good place to start.

One thing we particularly like are the "fun facts" accompanying each scandal. OK, so most of these are not really much fun at all - is anyone laughing about the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley after the Worldcom and Enron scandals? - but they do point to some of the absurdities of the system in which the accounting scandals have taken place. Enron being voted most innovative company six times in a row by Fortune magazine, Lehman brothers being honored with "Most Admired Securities Firm" a year before its collapse, AIG execs getting $165m in bonuses just after posting the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history and getting a government bailout? It doesn't say much about how well we scrutinize or reward supposedly "successful" companies, does it?

It's also interesting that the infographic has been created by an organization promoting online accounting degrees (we might add that their other Featured Article is titled "10 Accounting Tricks the 1% Use to Dodge the Taxman", which is also worth a look). Are they saying that an accounting degree will help avoid some of these problems in the future? That what we need are better accounting degrees? That an on-line offering is in any way more or less likely to lead people to engage in shady accounting practices? Clearly there is an important role for accounting education in here somewhere, but we're not too sure about the offerings being recommended by, or even who the organization is or what its methodology is. In the spirit of good accounting, a little more transparency would be a good thing. But don't let that stand in the way of enjoying a nice infographic.

The 10 Worst Corporate Accounting Scandals of All Time

Photo by AJC1. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing how many businesses think they can get away with things like this. Eventually someone will figure it out, so accounting the right way is the way to go; do not be another scandal statistic.


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