Article by Joy Mullane of Villanova Law Review Article discusses regulation of Executive Compensation through the tax code, including 409A.
"Section 409A was also enacted in response to popular sentiment. The public was in an uproar over Enron’s pay practices in general and its deferred compensation practices in particular. Enron’s deferred compensation practices allowed executives to access their retirement plans and deplete Enron’s assets while rank-and-file employees were locked out of accessing their retirement plans. In response, Congress enacted section 409A to discourage companies from establishing nonqualified deferred compensation plans that would allow an executive to have a significant degree of control over amounts deferred. While it is too early to make any certain claims regarding section 409A, prior experience suggests that it will share the experience of its predecessors and thus do little to prevent executives from finding a way around the rules to whatever end they desire, or else their employers will pay any imposed penalties."