In November, when Anthony "Buddy" Piszel became Freddie Mac's executive vice president and CFO, he was accustomed to scandals. As the former CFO of Health Net Inc., he helped to turn around the $12 billion managed healthcare provider after a billing crisis.

If he could fix the financials of a troubled company in an industry struggling with heavy regulation and unpaid receivables, Freddie Mac reckoned he was just the man to help the government-sponsored mortgage guarantor emerge from an accounting scandal that forced it to upwardly restate more than $5 billion in annual earnings.

As Piszel sees it, the Freddie Mac debacle is a lesson in misplaced emphasis. The company, he says, tried to speed up accounting while simultaneously replacing accounting controls. "Our firm overemphasized front-office activities and underemphasized back-office functions," says Piszel. "We grew like a weed and then exploded."

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