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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 22:16 GMT 23:16 UK
The Andersen trial at-a-glance
Arthur Andersen has been found guilty of obstructing justice by shredding documents relating to former client Enron. BBC News Online looks at the events which helped bring one of the world's leading accounting firms to its knees.

Enron, the US energy giant, was one of Arthur Andersen's most prestigious clients.

Last year Enron went from being America's seventh biggest company to winning the title of biggest bankruptcy in United States corporate history.

Enron's success had been based on artificially inflated profits and on accounting practices that had allowed the company to hide its debts.

Now, after 10 days of deliberation, a jury in Texas has found Andersen, Enron's auditor, guilty of obstructing justice.

Andersen's role

Arthur Andersen's job was to check Enron's accounts and to make sure they were an accurate reflection of the state of the business.

The auditor would have been expected to spot large scale fraud or deception.

The company also carried out consultancy work for Enron, leading to accusations of a conflict of interest.

When the energy giant's business began to unravel, staff at Arthur Andersen destroyed thousands of Enron-related documents and e-mails.

This happened both before and after US stock market regulators had asked for more information about the energy giant's accounts.

Key Players

  • David Duncan was the Andersen partner in charge of auditing Enron's accounts.

    He was sacked in January because of suspicions that he was the one who ordered staff to shred paperwork that might prove incriminating.

    Mr Duncan has said he was acting on instructions from an Andersen lawyer, Nancy Temple, but she has denied telling him to destroy documents.

    In April, Mr Duncan appeared in court in Houston and pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal obstruction.

    He admitted in court that he had caused Andersen employees to "alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal" information from the regulator.

  • Joseph Berardino was chief executive of Arthur Andersen at the time of Enron's collapse.

    He vigorously defended his company and tried to distance it from the scandal.

    He admitted that some Andersen executives had destroyed documents, but stressed that they did so without the knowledge or support of top-level management.

    Mr Berardino resigned at the end of March.

    Deal to avoid criminal trial collapses

    Arthur Andersen had held talks with the US Government to try to avoid appearing in court.

    Under the American legal system, companies facing criminal charges can do deals with the authorities to avoid trial.

    But Andersen's lawyers did not agree to the terms of a settlement proposed by the Department of Justice.

    The government was prepared to give the company a three-year stay of prosecution.

    In return, Andersen would have had to co-operate with the investigation into Enron and admit, in public, that it knew its employees were destroying documents.

    That could have effectively removed the company's licence to operate as an auditor in the US.

    Collapse of civil trial deal

    Talks being held to settle big civil lawsuits against Andersen broke down at the beginning of May.

    The company said it had failed to reach a settlement with several companies and investors who are seeking damages.

    Andersen said it was ready to pay at least $300m (204.3m) to the plaintiffs.

    According to the company, considerable progress had been made, but the plaintiffs could not resolve differences among themselves and with other defendants.

    The break-up

    The company has been busy breaking itself up.

    Most of the international arms of Andersen Worldwide have split from the US side of the business and are being swallowed up by rivals.

    In the United States, Deloitte & Touche has agreed to buy Andersen's tax business and KPMG is interested in taking over the consulting arm.

    In the UK, Deloitte & Touche has also agreed to take over Andersen.

    Arthur Andersen has lost more than 700 clients this year, including Oracle and UAL, the parent company of the world's largest airline, United Airlines.

    Before the scandal broke, Andersen employed about 28,000 people. More than 18,000 have since left the company.

  • The trial

    The disintegration


    See also:

    06 May 02 | Business
    02 May 02 | Business
    02 May 02 | Business
    15 Mar 02 | Business
    15 Mar 02 | Business
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