Professional Responsibility Keyed to Hazard
Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States
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Arthur Andersen LLP (Defendant) provided Enron Corporation with accounting services. In 2001, an article in The Wall Street Journal suggested improprieties at Enron, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened an informal investigation. Defendant formed an Enron “crisis-response” team, which included in-house counsel Nancy Temple. Les than one month later, one of Defendant’s partners, Michael Odom, held a general training meeting where he urged everyone to comply with Arthur Andersen’s (Defendant) document retention policy. This policy called for a single file that “should contain only that information which is relevant to supporting our work” (everything else should be destroyed). In the meeting, Odom stated “If [documents are] destroyed in the course of [the] normal policy and litigation is filed the next day, that’s great . . . We’ve followed our own policy, and whatever there was that might have been of interest to somebody is gone and irretrievable.” One week later, the SEC notified Enron that it had opened an investigation and requested certain information and documents. On the same day, Temple sent an email to Defendant’s Enron team reminding them to follow the document policy and attached a copy of it. There were several more meetings and all were followed by extensive destruction of paper and electronics related to Enron. Two weeks later, the SEC served Enron and Arthur Andersen (Defendant) with subpoenas for records, and Defendant’s employees were told, “No more shredding . . . We have been officially served for our documents.” Defendant was then indicted in the Southern District of Texas for persuading its employees to destroy documents related to the SEC investigation. The district court found Defendant guilty, and the court of appeals affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, focusing on whether the lower court’s jury instructions properly conveyed the elements of a “corrupt[t] persua[sion]” conviction
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