After the world watched Enron Corp. crumble and thousands of people lose their jobs and pensions, everyone was asking who is to blame. What about the accountants? Texas law is clear that accountants, as well as other professionals, may be liable to their clients. The question is, to whom else may they be liable? Enron was a publicly traded company with likely thousands of shareholders. Can the shareholders sue Enron’s accountants? What about Enron employees, who, because of their 401(k) plans, also were shareholders? Can they sue? Lastly, do the investors – who bet on Enron because of the accountants’ alleged statements and opinions as to the value of the company – have a claim? Actually, Texas law allows Enron’s shareholders and investors to sue its accountants.
Accountant liability to third parties under Texas law can be traced to the 10th Court of Appeals’ decision in American Indemnity Co. v. Ernst & Ernst(1937). In that case, the Waco court found that an accountant who deliberately made false representations to another with the intent of deceiving a third party was liable for the damages caused by the fraud to the third party.
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