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Civil Charges in Corporate Scandals

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Publication Date: February 2006

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL31961

Topic: Law and ethics (Civil law)

Abstract:

Since the collapse of Enron Corp. in late 2001, there has been a series of scandals involving major U.S. corporations. This report lists civil suits filed by federal regulatory agencies charging individuals and corporations with violations related to these scandals. The list is limited to corporations and their officers or employees that fit within the Enron pattern. That is, these are cases that allege one or more of the following: irregular accounting and auditing, management selfdealing, conflicts of interest between firms and financial advisors (or Wall Street firms and their customers), and manipulation or abusive trading in energy markets. Small "garden variety" examples of securities or accounting fraud are excluded.

A number of these cases have also resulted in criminal indictments, some followed by guilty pleas. These post-Enron criminal charges are listed in CRS Report RL31866, Criminal Charges in Corporate Scandals, by Mark Jickling and Paul H. Janov.

The civil cases listed here include only those filed by federal regulatory agencies -- principally the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but also a few actions by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Private lawsuits, such as shareholder derivative actions, are not included, although many of the companies listed are targets of multiple private suits brought by investors, employees, and others.

It should be noted that the most common form of resolution of civil cases like these is the consent agreement, whereby the defendant neither admits nor denies any wrongdoing. Despite the formal nonadmission of guilt, the consent agreement often imposes fines and other sanctions. These are described in the list.

This report will be updated as events warrant.