Risk & Compliance

Andersen Conviction Upheld on Appeal

Big Four to remain a foursome, further appeals doubtful, say legal experts.
Stephen TaubJune 18, 2004

A federal appellate court in New Orleans unanimously upheld the two-year-old jury conviction of accounting firm Arthur Andersen for obstruction of justice related to its client Enron, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Andersen was convicted on June 15, 2002. That October, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon sentenced Andersen to the maximum: a $500,000 fine and five years’ probation. Those events were anticlimactic, however, as the former auditing giant was all but dismantled by then.

“We are not persuaded that this conviction is flawed by reversible error, and we affirm the judgment of conviction,” Judge Patrick Higginbotham reportedly wrote for a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Today we decide one of the many cases arising from the rubble of Enron Corp., which fell from its lofty corporate perch in 2001 wreaking financial ruin upon thousands of investors, creditors and employees. Like a falling giant redwood, it took down with it many members of its supporting cast.”

The opinion ruled that Harmon did not substantially err in her rulings on evidence, jury instruction, or the behavior of prosecutors, the Chronicle reported.

Arthur Andersen can further appeal the case to the entire 5th Circuit Court, followed by the U.S. Supreme Court. “The firm is looking at all available options,” Arthur Andersen spokesman Patrick Dorton told the paper, which also noted that legal experts it spoke with doubt there will be any further appeals.

“We are disappointed by the appellate court ruling,” Dorton reportedly added in a prepared statement. “We continue to believe strongly that the criminal prosecution of a firm of 28,000 people was unjustified and the ensuing collapse of Arthur Andersen was an undeserved tragedy for its employees, clients and the business community at large.”

Since its conviction, added the Chronicle,Andersen has been “whittled down to about 250 people, most of them dealing with litigation and running a training center outside Chicago.”

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