Andersen Fights Back, Pleads Not Guilty

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Arthur Andersen LLP entered a plea of not guilty to criminal charges of obstruction of justice for shredding documents relating to the Enron audit. "I plead not guilty," said Eugene Frauenheim, managing partner of Andersen's Houston office, in federal court on Wednesday.

The date for starting the trial has been set at May 6. It is expected that the trial will last three weeks. Should Andersen be convicted of the federal charges, the firm could face a maximum fine of $500,000 and up to five years of probation.

Before and during the arraignment, hundreds of employees from Andersen's Houston office demonstrated outside the federal courthouse, wearing black T-shirts with the words "I Am Arthur Andersen" in orange letters and chanting "Save Andersen!" and "Drop the indictment!"

Similar demonstrations have been held in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times reports that Andersen employees have been flooding Justice Department telephone lines as another form of protest.

Andersen also ran a full-page advertisement in major newspapers Wednesday. The ad, which began with the heading, "Why we're fighting back," included a description of the Justice Department's "tragically wrong indictment of our whole firm," and called the indictment a "political broadside." The ad explains that Andersen feels there are errors in the Justice Department's case, and states that the firm's work will continue. The ad is signed, "The partners and employees of Arthur Andersen."

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