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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 00:24 GMT
Andersen 'offers Enron settlement'
Andersen's Joseph Berardino
Audit firm Andersen has offered a $260m payment to settle a lawsuit brought by aggrieved Enron investors, according to press reports.

Andersen, which signed off Enron's books, is widely blamed for failing to spot millions of dollars in hidden debts which ultimately led to the energy trading giant's collapse.

Enron investors and employees, many of whom lost their retirement savings when the energy giant filed for bankruptcy protection late last year, are pursuing both Andersen and Enron in the courts.

The USA Today newspaper said on Wednesday that the audit firm is willing to pay the plaintiffs a $260m settlement and a further undisclosed amount in company assets.

Andersen 'reaches out'

Andersen refused to confirm the report, but stressed that it is keen to "deal expeditiously and responsibly with what has occurred".

"Reaching out to the groups affected in this case is consistent with our commitment to address the issues raised by Enron's collapse in a straightforward and constructive manner," the company said in a statement.

"We remain confident that we can work through this successfully, and we want to focus our attention on taking the steps and making the reforms needed to strengthen our firm, the accounting profession, and the capital market system."

There has been speculation that the damage the Enron affair has inflicted on Andersen's reputation, coupled with the cost of settling Enron-related lawsuits, could effectively destroy the company.

Andersen has admitted that employees at its Houston office shredded documents relating to the Enron account.

Earlier this month, Andersen chief executive Joseph Berardino said "people in our firm made serious errors in judgment in destroying documents."

See also:

05 Feb 02 | Business
Audit giants called to account
29 Jan 02 | Business
Andersen on the defensive
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