The Securities and Exchange Commission is the key US Government agency which regulates financial markets.
Its role is to ensure that investors have accurate information about companies, and that companies do not try and deceive investors or manipulate the market for their shares.
It tells companies what they must disclose to the public. It has strong investigatory powers and can fine companies for violations or failing to co-operate.
It was the SEC investigation into Enron in October 2001 which precipitated the company’s ultimate collapse.
But the SEC failed to notice earlier irregularities in Enron’s accounts and failed to vet the company’s reports in detail since 1997.
And its plan to ensure that the firms that audit company accounts cannot also bid for lucrative consulting work from the same company, was blocked after opposition from accounting firms.
The new head of the SEC, Harvey Pitt, was a lawyer whose clients included Andersen and other accounting firms.