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3 most important corporate fraud cases of the 21st century

In the digital and globalized era of the 21st century, corporate frauds have been evolving, adopting more sophisticated forms and reaching dimensions that seemed unthinkable before. In this article, we will explore the three most significant corporate frauds that have marked the 21st century, analyzing the tactics used, the consequences and the lessons learned by corporate law.

1. Enron case (2001): The fall of an energy giant

The scandal of Enron is undoubtedly one of Wall Street's most iconic and damaging corporate frauds of the 21st century. Enron, an energy company based in Houston, Texas, collapsed in 2001 after fraudulent financial accounting and deceptive accounting tactics were revealed.

Two of its officers were convicted for selling more than 90 million dollars in shares of the company, which published false results with inflated performance figures to deceive shareholders. It also came to light that Enron paid bribes and used influence peddling in some countries to obtain contracts. But in reality the services were provided by subsidiaries of the same company, hiding the millionaire losses to all its shareholders.

  • Criminal scheme used:

Creation of off-balance sheet entities to hide debts.

-Manipulation of energy prices.

-Use of unethical accounting practices to inflate revenues.

2. Volkswagen case (2015): Cheating on vehicle emissions.

In 2015, Volkswagen was the protagonist of one of the biggest frauds in the automotive industry. The German company was accused of installing software to influence pollutant emissions tests in the United States. The controversy was sparked when the company admitted that nearly 600,000 cars sold in the United States were equipped with software designed to manipulate the results of pollutant emissions tests of diesel engines. This cost the company close to US$$29 billion and several investigations that, according to US prosecutors, ended up concluding that its diesel engines were producing higher emissions on the streets than in the test laboratories.

This brought the company a host of problems associated with significant fines and compensation, loss of consumer confidence and damage to the brand's reputation, and above all increased regulatory scrutiny in the automotive industry.

  • Criminal scheme used:

-Use of software to manipulate emission test results.

-Deliberate withholding of information from regulators, shareholders and consumers.

-Violation of environmental standards.

3. Theranos case (2018): Unfulfilled promises in medical technology.

The Theranos case is a shocking example of how exaggerated promises and lack of transparency can lead to the downfall of a medical technology company. Theranos, led by Elizabeth Holmes, claimed to have revolutionary technology for medical testing. Its purpose was to detect cancer, diabetes and other conditions with just a few drops of blood.

Prosecutors said in court that she misled doctors, patients and investors about the exaggerated performance of this technology. This caused thousands of people to invest all their savings, but in an environment like Silicon Valley where failed investments are normal. The poor liquidity of Theranos caused displeasure among shareholders and allowed to prove Holmes' guilt in this corporate fraud.

  • Criminal scheme used:

-Exaggeration of the company's technological capabilities.

-Falsification of medical test results.

-Deception of investors and business partners.

And it is in these cases that we see the importance of verification and due diligence before investing in emerging companies. For as companies seek to grow and prosper in an increasingly competitive environment, the temptation to resort to fraudulent practices can increase. However, history teaches us that the costs and consequences of these acts can be catastrophic. And business leaders and investors need to learn from these cases and apply proactive measures to ensure the integrity and sustainability of its operations.

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