Supreme Court to Hear Appeal of Andersen Conviction

The Andersen accounting firm scored a big victory in its ongoing efforts to overturn a criminal conviction stemming from its involvement in the Enron debacle, with the Supreme Court agreeing to hear an appeal in April.

The firm, once the gold standard of American accounting and auditing companies, has not conducted any audits or completed any tax returns in the past two years, but continues to fight the conviction that stemmed from the destruction of Enron-related documents.

The 2002 federal investigation obstruction conviction was upheld last June by the federal appeals court so the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case is a victory for Andersen, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"The firm is pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to consider its case given the importance of the legal issues and the potential impact on businesses and individuals in the United States," said an Andersen spokesman.

The Chicago-based Andersen has shuttered its accounting practice but a reversal of the conviction by the Supreme Court would help the firm to fend off more than 100 civil lawsuits pending against the firm and its partners, which seek billions of dollars. By pursuing the case before the Supreme Court, the company also seeks to restore its once golden reputation, the Tribune reported.

The firm has always contended that the documents and e-mails related to its longtime audit client Enron were destroyed as a matter of course and not as a matter of obstruction. The firm has said that any documents vital to the government's investigation of Enron were eventually produced and that no Enron-related documents were destroyed after the investigation began.

Upholding the conviction is of critical interest to the government. The Bush administration has taken a hard line against corporate fraud to restore investor confidence in the markets and a reversal of the Andersen conviction would be a blow to the administration, the Tribune reported.

Arguments will take place in April with a Supreme Court ruling expected by July, the Tribune reported.

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