With this spring's criminal trial of former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the masses were again seeing accounts of Raptors, Chewco and Osprey -- some of the shadowy "special purpose vehicles" the energy company used for improper purposes such as concealing its mushrooming debt.
But while much of Enron'sillegal, most SPVs are proper and they can serve a variety of functions. Many are separate business-financing operations whose transactions do not appear on the parent company's books. They can be used to create easily traded asset-backed securities that allow their "sponsor" companies to convert cash flows expected over many years into immediate lump-sum payments
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