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During the late 1990s, Enron grew rapidly and moved into areas it believed fit its basic business plan: buy or develop an asset, such as a pipeline or power plant, and then expand it by building a wholesale or retail business around the asset. During the period from 1996 to 1998, we are told, approximately 60% of Enron's earnings were generated from businesses in which Enron was not engaged ten years earlier, and some 30% to 40% were generated from businesses in which Enron was not engaged five years earlier.

Much of this growth involved large initial capital investments that were not expected to generate significant earnings or cash flow in the short term. VVhile Enron believed these investments would be beneficial over a period of time, they placed immediate pressure on Enron's balance sheet. Enron already had a substantial debt load. Funding the new investments by issuing additional debt was unattractive because cash flow in the early years would be insufficient to service that debt and would place pressure on Enron's credit ratings. Maintaining Enron's credit ratings at investment grade was vital to the conduct of its energy trading business. Alternatively, funding the investments by issuing additional equity was also unattractive because the earnings in the early years would be insufficient to avoid "dilution'~---that is, reducing earnings per share.

One perceived solution to this finance problem was to find outside investors willing to enter into arrangements that would enable Enron to retain those risks it believed it could manage effectively, and the related rewards. These joint investments typically were structured as separate entities to which Enron and other investors contributed assets or other consideration. These entities could borrow directly from


outside lenders, although in many cases a guaranty or other form of credit support was required from Enron.

Enron's treatment of the entities for financial statement purposes was subject to accounting rules that determine whether the entity should be consolidated in its entirety (including all of its assets and liabilities) into Enron's balance sheet, or should instead be treated as an investment by Enron. Enron management preferred the latter treatmentknown as "off-balance-sheet'~-because it would enable Enron to present itself more attractively as measured by the ratios favored by Wall Street analysts and rating agencies. Enron engaged in numerous transactions structured in ways that resulted in off-balancesheet treatment. Some were joint ventures. Others were structured as a vehicle known as a "special purpose entity" or "special purpose vehicle" (referred to as an "SPE" in this Report). Some involved both.

From the early 1990s through 2001, we understand that Enron used SPEs in many aspects of its business. We have been told that these included: synthetic lease transactions, which involved the sale to an SPE of an asset and lease back of that asset (such as Enron's headquarters building in Houston); sales to SPEs of "financial assets" (a debt or equity interest owned by Enron); sales to merchant "hedging" SPEs of Enron stock and contracts to receive Enron stock; and transfers of other assets to entities that have limited outside equity.

There is no generally accepted definition of SPEs to distinguish them from other legal entities, although the staff of the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") has used the concept of entities whose activities and powers are significantly limited by


their charter or other contractual arrangement. An SPE may take any legal form, including a corporation, partnership, or trust. At the margin, it may be difficult to determine whether an entity is or is not an SPE; key considerations in the accounting literature include how long the entity is intended to be in existence, and the restrictions placed on its activities.

The accounting literature provides only limited guidance concerning when an SPE should be consolidated with its sponsor for financial statement purposes. Much of the literature developed in the context of synthetic lease transactions, in which an SPE acquires property or equipment and leases it to a single lessee. The accounting objective of these lease transactions was to finance the acquisition of an asset while keeping the corresponding debt off of the acquiring company's balance sheet. SPEs later came to be used in other non-leasing transactions, largely to obtain similar accounting results. Over time, in part because of SEC staff concerns that there was no standard practice in dealing with the consolidation of SPEs, the FASB Emerging Issues Task Force released several statements attempting to clarify the relevant principles. By the late 1990s, several generally recognized consolidation principles had been established.

To begin, "[t]here is a presumption that consolidated statements are more meaningful than separate statements and that they are usually necessary for a fair presentation when one of the companies in the group directly or indirectly has a controlling financial interest in the other companies . . . ." FASB, Accounting Research Bulletin No. 51, Consolidated Financial Statements (1959). Ordinarily, the majority holder of a class of equity funded by independent third parties should consolidate (assuming the equity meets certain criteria dealing with size, ability to exercise control,


and exposure to risk and rewards). If there is no independent equity, or if the independent equity fails to meet the criteria, then the presumption is that the transferor of assets to the SPE or its sponsor should consolidate the SPE.

This presumption in favor of consolidation can be overcome only if two conditions are met:

First, an independent owner or owners of the SPE must make a substantive capital investment in the SPE, and that investment must have substantive risks and rewards of ownership during the entire term of the transaction. Where there is only a nominal outside capital investment, or where the initial investment is withdrawn early, then the SPE should be consolidated. The SEC staff has taken the position that 3% of total capital is the minimum acceptable investment for the substantive residual capital, but that the appropriate level for any particular SPE depends on various facts and circumstances. Distributions reducing the equity below the minimum require the independent owner to make an additional investment. Investments are not at risk if supported by a letter of credit or other form of guaranty on the initial investment or a guaranteed return.

Second, the independent owner must exercise control over the SPE to avoid consolidation. This is a subjective standard. Control is not determined solely by reference to majority ownership or day-to-day operation of the venture, but instead depends on the relative rights of investors. Accountants often look to accounting literature on partnership control rights for guidance in making this evaluation.

Of the many SPEs utilized by Enron over the past several years, some were involved in the transactions between Enron and related parties that are the subject of this


Report. We have only looked at these SPEs. The unconsolidated SPEs involved in Enron's related-party transactions present issues on both aspects of the non-consolidation test: whether any outside investor had more than 3% residual capital at risk in the entities, and whether any investor other than Enron exercised sufficient control over the entities to justify non-consolidation. We discuss these issues below in connection with specific entities and transactions.


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