FEB 5, 2018
Remember good old Enron? Remember how it rose to become the envy of Wall Street and middle America alike, parlaying the image of non-existent success into an image of innovation, savvy, and prestige? It was all so real that Enron was 5th on the Fortune 500 list in 2001. It’s easy to forget: Enron was viewed as a titan, a marvel, a rock-solid success machine. Until it wasn’t.
It pulled this off, largely, based on “off-balance sheet” entities, shell corporations, and the like. Did you know many European nations have similar liabilities lurking under the surface of their public balance sheets?
The 28 member states of the European Union (EU) have a total debt burden of €12.5 trillion, which could be even bigger, according to the latest figures from the EU statistics office, Eurostat.
Eurostat statistics are based on four broad categories of debt, which are guarantees issued by the state in relation to the liabilities of third parties. However, there are contingent liabilities which cannot be found in the official statistics. Those liabilities are not ‘hard’ debts but if even a small part of those guarantees was due to be repaid it would result in huge holes in the national budgets. This means there is accumulation of risks of which many are unaware.