House Panel Calls For Investigation of Andersen Attorney

Adding yet another chapter to the open book of accusations against Arthur Andersen and its partners in connection with the Enron collapse, the House Energy Committee on December 17, 2002 asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate a possible perjury by Andersen attorney Nancy Temple.

The House panel wants to know if Ms. Temple intentionally misrepresented her reasons for sending email reminders about the firm's records retention policy. If DOJ can prove that a perjury did in fact occur during Ms. Temple's testimony to Congress in January 2002, it might be the only criminal charge involving Andersen or its partners to survive a long and (some would say) misdirected course of unprecedented legal twists and turns.

Rather than accuse Andersen of an audit failure, the Justice Department charged the firm with obstruction of justice due to document shredding. Although a jury found Andersen guilty of that charge six months ago, the firm is appealing that decision in part because legal experts say the jury's reasoning was not valid. The jurists have said publicly they found the firm guilty because David Duncan, the lead partner on the Enron engagement, heeded Ms. Temple's emailed advice to edit a draft account of a meeting – an act that is not illegal.

The jury's verdict came after Mr. Duncan submitted a guilty plea to charges of obstructing justice by document destruction. But members of the jury largely rejected Mr. Duncan's confession, saying the evidence was entirely circumstantial despite his plea bargain. Some observers have speculated Mr. Duncan was coerced or intimidated into admitting guilt for a crime he didn't commit. As reported by AccountingWEB earlier this week, Mr. Duncan still awaits sentencing.