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Resisting Corporate Corruption, 3rd Edition by Stephen V. Arbogast

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Case 10Whistleblowing Before Imploding in Accounting Scandals

Is this going to have any impact? Will it even make it to Ken Lay? Should I be sending it somewhere else, perhaps to someone outside? Or, should I just leave Enron and hand this letter to Lay on my way out the door?

THE ANONYMOUS LETTER’S TEXT WAS FINISHED. Sherron Watkins stared at the words and debated her course of action yet again. In front of her sat an unsigned letter and an envelope. The letter was addressed to Ken Lay, Enron’s chairman now returning as CEO. Unless Sherron came up with a better idea, her letter was headed for the mailbox where Enron collected employee feedback.

Watkins reread the draft (see Attachment 1), trying to gauge its likely impact. If her letter made it to Ken Lay, it should get his attention. Sherron was telling him in no uncertain terms that ruin was stalking Enron. During the last few months, working again in Andy Fastow’s Global Finance, she had come across what she termed the worst accounting fraud she’d ever seen. Bits and pieces of this story were starting to leak to the press. Sherron was convinced that if the full story ever got out, it could quickly lead to Enron’s demise.

Until today, August 15, 2001, Watkins had regarded this outcome as a matter of time. So long as Jeff Skilling was Enron’s CEO, she felt there was little chance that Enron would take the radical steps necessary to reconstitute its finances. Skilling had been the senior enabler of Enron’s aggressive accounting ...

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