Financial statements are one of the most important, if not the most important, documents for investors. These statements are prepared quarterly and yearly by the company accounting department, and are then audited in detail by a large external accounting firm. Investors use these documents to determine the value of the company, and trust that the company was truthful in its statements, and the auditing firm correctly audited the company's financial statements for any mistakes in their books and balances. Mistakes on a company's financial statements can be costly. However, financial fraud on the statements can be outright disastrous. Penalties for accounting fraud can include individual lifetime prison sentences, as well as company fines for billions of dollars. As students in the accounting major, it is our responsibility to ensure that financial statements are accurate and truthful to protect ourselves, other stakeholders, and the companies we work for. This ethics game takes the stories of Enron, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers and uses them to help students identify financial fraud and how it can be prevented, as well as the consequences behind unethical decisions in financial reporting. The Enron scandal involved CEO Kenneth Lay and his predecessor Jeffery Skilling hiding losses in their financial statements with the help of their auditing firm, Arthur Andersen. Enron collapsed in 2002, and Lay was sentenced to 45 years in prison with his conspirator Skilling sentenced to 24 years in prison. In the WorldCom scandal, CEO Bernard "Bernie" Ebbers booked line costs as capital expenses (overstating WorldCom's assets), and created fraudulent accounts to inflate revenue and WorldCom's profit. Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison and lost his title as WorldCom's Chief Executive Officer. Lehman Brothers took advantage of a loophole in accounting procedure Repo 105, that let the firm hide $50 billion in profits. No one at Lehman Brothers was sentenced to jail since the transaction was technically considered legal, but Lehman was the largest investment bank to fail and the only large financial institution that was not bailed out by the U.S. government.
- Scandal: An Ethics Game on the Importance of Accurate GAAP and FASB Reporting for Public Corporations
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