Brought to account

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The collapse of Enron in 2001 brought the spotlight on to the previously obscure issue of financial accounting standards. Now, as the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) chief accountant, Conrad Hewitt, prepares to step down this month, the spotlight has returned.

As US banks report ever-growing mark-to-market losses on their portfolios of subprime-related assets, criticism of current accounting standards is becoming louder - even from the most unexpected sources. The Bank of England, for

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