Recently at Ohio State there was a very exciting opportunity for MAcc students. As a part of our MAcc Talk speaker series (check out my previous post for an overview), Andy Fastow, the former CFO of Enron came to campus. If you aren’t as big of an accounting nerd as MAcc students are, you may not know how Enron famously went from one of the largest and most admired companies in the world to nothing in a matter of months. Every accounting student has seen these articles and cases countless times, but hearing from someone so central to the situation was a fresh and stimulating experience. Fastow was incredibly transparent and even provided his phone number for students to text him questions.
Even more exciting than simply attending the talk was that I had been chosen, along with several other students, to attend lunch with Mr. Fastow afterward. It was honestly intimidating to sit down with a name you’ve seen in textbooks before, but how often do you get a chance like that? We all had time to ask questions and my Fisher education had me feeling prepared to meaningfully discuss financial reporting issues with such a well-known figure.
Ultimately, my primary takeaways from this experience with Fastow is the way he described the gray area that so often accountants need to tread in. He insisted that all of the balance sheet massaging he had done at Enron was morally wrong, but technically legal. As someone pursuing a career as an auditor, it was fascinating to get inside the mind behind the most infamous fraud in history.