The story of financial scandal in America begins in 1792, with a colossal securities market crash caused by the speculative activity of a former member of Continental Congress and deputy at the US Treasury, William Duer. Since then scandals have surfaced throughout American history, inciting outrage and often spurring reforms to ensure that similar events never recur.
In recent years, accounting scandals, investor fraud and failures of corporate governance and risk management have been thrust into the spotlight. Accounting scandals that emerged in the early 2000s led to the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which increased regulation, oversight and accountability in corporate accounting practices. The failure of large corporate entities ranging from banks to Wall Street investment houses and government-sponsored mortgage agencies has brought questions of risk management and corporate governance to the forefront, posing us with new challenges and questions of how to balance private enterprise with fair and effective oversight.
From betrayals of the public trust by government officials to betrayals of investors by Ponzi artists, and from corporate accounting fraud to egregious failures of risk management in more recent years, “Scandal!” explores the history of these episodes in American history, scrutinizing the people involved and the damage they caused. Even though names like Teapot Dome, Credit Mobilier, Ivar Krueger and Tino De Angelis have all but faded from history, they created shockwaves in their time and continue to echo in events that are unfolding today—reinforcing the adage that even though history doesn’t repeat itself, it certainly does rhyme.