Andersen's Settlement and Delay Request Denied
Andersen Trial in Enron Case Scheduled to Begin May 6
Big Five firm Andersen, facing a May 6 court date for felony obstruction of justice charges, attempted to negotiate a settlement with the Department of Justice late last week. Prior settlement attempts had failed, as did this latest offer.
Andersen offered to acknowledge that certain employees should not have destroyed documents relating to the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation of Enron's bankruptcy. In addition, Andersen agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice's investigation of Enron, and the firm also agreed to submit to a certain period of probation.
Andersen did not agree to plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges.
The Department of Justice has rejected the latest settlement offer and it now appears likely that the trial will proceed as planned, beginning on Monday, May 6, in Houston.
Andersen requested a delay of a month or more for the start date of the trial, claiming that leaks of information from the government about the type of information they have are unfairly influencing potential jurors. "It has resulted in a perception that we are guilty before being tried," said Andersen's lawyer, Rusty Hardin. The U.S. District Judge who will be hearing the trial, Melinda Harmon, dismissed the claim and denied Andersen's request for a new trial date.
"So we just proceed to trial," said Mr. Hardin. "I think we're probably through talking to the government about the case."
On another legal front, jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the case that focuses on Andersen's alleged role in contributing to the bankruptcy of the Baptist Foundation of America. A $217 million settlement offer was agreed to last month then suddenly withdrawn by Andersen for its role in the bankruptcy of the Foundation, which resulted in losses of over $500 million by mostly elderly investors. Opening arguments could be heard as early as Tuesday. The trial may last up to three months.