As its services became more complex and its stock soared, Enron created a constellation of partnerships that allowed managers to shift debt off the books.
Some partnerships' losses would have to be paid for out of Enron stock or cash in 2003, bringing the debts back home. There are indications that Enron executives and its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, had warnings of problems nearly a year ago. According to a Feb. 6, 2001 e-mail, Andersen considered dropping Enron as a client. In August, Enron Vice President Sherron Watkins wrote an anonymous memo to former Chairman Kenneth L. Lay, detailing reasons she thought Enron "might implode in a wave of accounting scandals."
On Oct. 16, Enron announced a $638 million loss for the third quarter, and Wall Street reduced the value of stockholders' equity by $1.2 billion. Enron announced Nov. 8 that it had overstated earnings over the past four years by $586 million and that it was responsible for up to $3 billion in obligations to various partnerships. A $23 billion merger offer from rival Dynegy was dropped Nov. 28 after lenders downgraded Enron's debt to junk-bond status.