Andersen 'orchestrated' Enron cover-up


A small group of partners at Arthur Andersen LLP orchestrated a cover-up campaign to keep sensitive information about its former client, Enron Corporation, out of the hands of government investigators, a prosecutor for the United States Justice Department said yesterday.

The partners persuaded Andersen employees to erase emails and destroy files relating to the energy-trader in order "to keep them out of the hands of law enforcement", government prosecutor Mr Matt Friedrich told a jury on the first day of Andersen's obstruction of justice trial. Mr Friedrich, a member of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force who was laying out the government's case against the troubled accountancy, said the document shredding was ordered by a "smart" group of people who left few tracks.

Mr Friedrich said the government - whose star witness is former Andersen partner Mr David Duncan - would show there was a top-down effort to suppress vital information relating to Andersen's accoun-ting of Enron as that firm's questionable accounting practices were revealed in a firestorm of publicity in late 2001.

But Andersen's chief defence counsel, Mr Rusty Hardin, ridiculed the government's theory, describing the alleged cover-up as "the most incredibly incompetent conspiracy you can imagine".