The case of Enron, and the long list of corporate collapses that followed in its wake, have uncovered a corporate America beset by deception, false accounting and bankruptcy. This paper is concerned with the limits to detecting corporate fraud through auditing. In particular, it attempts to explain these limits in terms of the historical development of the accounting profession, the legal context in which it operates, and the uneven nature of ‘corporate colonisation’ in US government and financial regulation. A key question here is whether the internationalisation of the world's capital markets, so often the cause of disabling financial disasters, helps us to make sense of this regulatory failure. The basic conclusion of the analysis is that it does not. On the contrary, the evidence presented here demonstrates that this crisis is rooted in a regulatory structure that was forged long before the present liberalisation of the world's capital markets.