IRS could have prevented Enron meltdown if they acted on information provided in 1999

March 16th, 2011

From TaxProfBlog, a report that the IRS pays an Enron whistleblower $1.5 million.

The IRS yesterday announced that it has paid a $1.1 million reward to a whistleblower for information that exposed an alleged tax fraud scheme by Enron. The reward represents the maximum 15% permitted under thestatute

Most interesting, for purposes of the black swan analysis, is this bit:

“If the IRS had pursued this information in 1999 when my client first informed them of these abusive tax shelters, the government might have realized the depth of Enron’s problems and perhaps taken steps that might have helped avoid a total meltdown,” attorney Kelton said.

This sounds an awful lot like the pre-9/11 failure to connect the dots. A black swan of the Enron magnitude is largely unpredictable, and unavoidable, even if some recognize what is going on. Does anyone think that under the Sarbanes-Oxley regime, this tip from the whistleblower would have prevented Enron?