It’s been 20 years, to the day, since Enron Corp. filed for bankruptcy, marking one of the most spectacular financial collapses in history and forever cementing its legacy as the posterchild of corporate fraud.
The energy-trading giant’s downfall, triggered by revelations of shady accounting practices, still reverberate throughout the business and political world today. The deceptive practices of its executives, some of whom served jailtime, helped spur the passage of federal laws and regulations designed to improve the accuracy of financial reporting.
Enron’s misdeeds in energy—its traders were found to have manipulated California’s recently deregulated electricity market, helping spark a crisis that led to sky-high power prices and rotating blackouts—ultimately led to the downfall of the state’s governor. The name Enron is still invoked in shorthand—like Theranos, Madoff or Lehman—a full two decades after its public ruin. It even inspired a limited-run Broadway show.