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Computer: Corrector
Anti-Shredding Machines   (+4, -3)  [vote for, against]
You can shred, but you can't hide...

In light of the Enron debacle (along with other historic debacles that revolve around paper-shredding), it seems obvious that we need a way to easily un-shred documents.

Simply put, why not create a machine whereas you dump all manner of shredded documents into a bin, and it sorts them, digitally scans them and electronically pieces them together by computer? Then, the results can be viewed and re-printed out.

Oh what fun we would have...
-- gb2000, May 10 2002

This would destroy any point to shredding in the first place, and on balance, I think shredding accomplishes more good than evil.

That said, I also think Arthur Andersen should cease to exist as a company, its investors should lose their investments, and some of its officers should probably go to jail.
-- beauxeault, May 10 2002

I don't, [bx]. Only those individuals directly responsible should be punished.
-- bristolz, May 10 2002

There have been cases of shredded documents being reconstructed. It was trivial and could be done by hand before the days of cross-cut shredders. Even with the 1/4"x1" cross-cut shredders I would expect that the pieces, if suitably examined and scanned, could be reconstructed.

One difficulty is that to really reconstruct a documented shredded with such a machine, it would be necessary for the scanner to detect the patterns in the paper fibers. Since many types of paper have a noticeable 'grain', detection of such would greatly aid reconstruction.
-- supercat, May 10 2002

bristolz, I can sympathize with potential "innocent victims" perhaps among the investors and certainly among the employees. In fact, thinking about innocent employees who will lose their jobs makes me want to retract what I said somewhat. But I think Andersen's and Enron's abuses were made possible by a whole entangled network of people who did nothing illegal nor unethical, but merely focused just on "how much money's it gonna make me" without any consideration to whether the money was being made illicitly. For most investors, relying on analysts who in my book are also culpable, this was as innocent as trusting the analyst to tell the truth. Hard to punish that, really, but stockholders do bear the responsibility, at least to the extent of the value of their investment, of being sure that the line against shenanigans is a firm one. That responsibility was not widely exercised (nor have I, I admit, exercised it for my investments), and losing the investment is not a wholly unjust result, particularly if it results in renewed activism among investors to police the companies in which they invest.

Even when it comes to innocent employees, at least at a certain level, a hard lesson at Andersen will help employees in other companies justify a risky stand against those in authority who are seduced by the ever-present temptation to cut ethical corners.

And finally, I'll also admit that my present rather hard-line stance is in part fueled by my sense of outrage. I expect the broad-brushness resulting from that will eventually subside.
-- beauxeault, May 10 2002

Ultimately, you could not be more correct, Beauxeault, and that's precisely why stock investments are not federally insured here in the United States. But if you've ever been involved with a large scale enterprise, you will appreciate just how few people inside the organization are ever truly component, or even empowered, to affect decisions at the executive level; And of those, how few truly recognize all of the ramifications any action might have on sales, cash flow, or public opinion of the company...all of which might (in fact, will) be reflected in the marketplace incidentally to book value.

Very few individual investors and stockholders are either competent or capable of accomplishing even a superficial analysis (dismiss "formal audit") of a corporation's books...Where does that leave the public stock market as a whole? For the most part, we end up trusting the skills of CPAs, CFPs, Investment Managers, stock analysts and mutual fund portfolio managers.

Virtually every major accounting firm in the United States includes the following words in its periodic report to shareholders: "Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and financial highlights based on our audits...We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion."

To the extent that the accounting profession desires any public confidence in its acumen, accuracy , thoroughness, and raisson d'etre, I think we should fully hold them to that standard. I think that Account Executives at firms like Andersen, and KPMG, and PriceWaterhouse, and Ernst & Young , et al, need to step forward and take full responsibility for failure to imagine duplicity, and faulty, incomplete or dishonest reporting, along with the offending corporate executives. Aside from those few individuals (Executives and Accountants Who Are Supposed To Know Better), though, most others inside the organization should not get the tarbrush.

And , in virtually every case, the public investor should be spared the guilt, if not the loss and the lesson.
-- jurist, May 11 2002

beaux - I agree but also extend the prison terms to ex-Enron dirtectors and DUBYA!
-- ferret, May 11 2002

random, halfbakery