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Enron's Accounting Scandal & Corporate SEC S-K Departures



I am interested in the connection between the accounting debt departures made by Enron Corporation and the ability of publicly traded corporations to hide financial environmental debt from shareholders while violating the US Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Regulation S-K mandating full transparency of environmental performance to national environmental regulations.
 
In 1998 a US federal government agency (the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) released a study reporting 74 percent of publicly-traded companies had failed to
adequately disclose the existence of environmental legal proceedings in their
10-K registration requirements as mandated by Securities and Exchange Commission
("SEC") Regulation S-K, Item 103.
 
A.M.Best 2001 actuary reports on the insurance industry's exposure to corporate financial environmental debt and liabilities states corporations Superfund and Aspestos toxic tort and cleanup claims alone are close to $300 billion.
 
The EPA feels these financial environmental accounting departures and violations of SEC regulations are rewarding companies who are not abiding by our nation's environmental regulations and hiding their environmental financial debt.
 
The EPA also feels the practice of hiding environmental debt is undermining the efforts to have law abiding firms gain credit in the financial market place.
 
In the last twenty years the SEC has only once prosecuted a firm for violating SEC Reg.S-K financial environmental accounting regulations.
 
As a result, the EPA OECA in January 2001 issued a guidance document advising regional offices when they should inform targets of EPA enforcement actions that enforcement proceeding may be a reportable legal proceeding under Item 103 of Regulation S-K.
(Please see attached references)
 
The director of the EPA OECA copied the guidance document statements with references to the 1998 report noting 74% of publicly traded companies are violationg SEC environmental accounting filing regulations to directors of the SEC.
 
A January 25,2002 letter I received from John M. Morrissey, SEC Deputy Chief Accountant, states "the Office of the Chief Accountant has not recently reviewed and is not in a position to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency study".  Even though SEC directors were alerted to it by the EPA one year ago.
 
In wake of the recent Enron/Andersen accounting scandal exposing the inability of the current US accounting system to regulate itself and with no independent bodies overseeing enforcement of SEC regulations the EPA study results indicate Corporations are in charge of determining what financial environmental debt should be released to shareholders and the financial community and the SEC isn't enforcing its own regulations in the marketplace.
 
If the SEC isn't enforcing open violations of its Reg.S-K as brought to their attention by the EPA what impact do you think that will have on stakeholders/shareholders having confidence in the financial operating (including sustainability performance) reports of the firms you are working with?
 
And does this situation undermine the transparency of performance to stakeholders in your community and corporate sustainability programs?

Best Wishes,
Donald Sutherland
Member of the Society of Environmental Journalists
donaldsutherland-iso14000@worldnet.att.net

Reference:
http://www.pollutiononline.com/read/nl20010515/427844
An EPA study found that 74 percent of  publicly-traded companies had failed  to
adequately disclose the existence of  environmental legal proceedings in
their 10-K registration requirements as mandated by  the Securities and
Exchange Commission ("SEC"). A new guidance document
advises regional  offices when they should inform targets of EPA  enforcement
actions that enforcement proceedings may be a reportable legal
proceeding.

New Enforcement Alert Newsletter Explains SEC Environmental Disclosure Rules
http://es.epa.gov/oeca/ore/sec.pdf

Notice on Public Company Requirements to Disclose Environmental Legal
Proceedings
http://es.epa.gov/oeca/main/strategy/oppac_notice.html

WRI report on financial environmental departures by  US  publicly traded pulp
manufacturers
http://www.wristore.com/pureprofit.html