The 10 biggest recent accounting scandals in America have shaken the nation and affected investor confidence. Though not all scandals are the same, they tend to lead to large investor losses and depending on the magnitude of the scandal, may even affect confidence in the financial system at large. Corporate accounting scandals are by no means confined solely to America, but are also commonly seen in other regions and countries as well. In 2015, Toshiba, the large Japanese multinational conglomerate was accused of an accounting scandal worth $1.2 billion, through the overstating of operating profits.
America houses many multinational companies and firms and many of the brightest minds work in the country. However, the U.S is not immune to organizational fraud or scandals, and though the country has seen many accounting scandals in the past and has taken corrective measures to check them, the fact is that they haven’t stopped occurring. A few corrupt employees generally manipulate financial statements to misrepresent facts. They do so either by overstating revenue and assets or by understating expenses and liabilities to mislead investors/creditors and make money dishonestly. These cases are exposed either by SEC investigations or by whistleblowers (the SEC rewards these corporate whistleblowers to encourage them, as well as protect them).
There are numerous instances of accounting scandals in American corporate history. The world’s most infamous bankruptcy, of Enron in 2001, left investor confidence shaken in the American financial system and led to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002. However, even this law has not prevented corporate fraud. MF Global, which was a reputed commodity broker, went bankrupt in 2011 after funds totaling $1.6 billion went missing from customer accounts. Top officials of another major multinational company (Tyco) stole millions of dollars from the company’s accounts. Other cases include HealthSouth in 2003, where officers were accused of overstating earnings by $1.4 billion to meet shareholder expectations.
Over the next few pages, you will read about the 10 biggest recent accounting scandals in America. The slides show that accounting scandals have been most commonly seen in financial services companies, though they have also occurred in other industries like oil, telecom, and pharma. We have gathered the data from sources such as Forbes, accountingdegree.org and Wikipedia, and the companies have been ranked based on the estimated magnitude of loss. For further scandalous reading, you might also want to check out our list of the top 10 accounting scandals of all time.