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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Andersen trial gets musical
Artist's sketch of the Arthur Andersen trial underway in Houston, Texas
The trial isn't just testimony - there's music, too.
test hello test
by David Schepp
BBC News Online's North America Business Reporter in Houston

What do accountants do in their spare time?

Write music, it seems.

Well, at least that is the case for one Arthur Andersen auditor, who testified on Wednesday in the US Government's obstruction case against the beleaguered auditor.

The Eagles 1976 album 'Hotel California'
Hotel California was Record of the Year in 1977
In what provided the first extended bout of comic relief for the heretofore-lacklustre trial, James Hecker, a Houston-based auditor for Andersen, said he parodied a famous rock song to describe his firm's relationship with failed energy-giant Enron.

Set to tune of Hotel California from the Eagles, the 1970s rock band, Mr Hecker wrote the song following conversations and observations about how hard worked and well compensated Andersen employees assigned to Enron were.

Mr Hecker told Justice Department attorney James Buell the satire had no basis in reality and was strictly a joke.

'Bring your alibis'

Nevertheless, US District Judge Melinda Harmon allowed the song to be entered in as evidence, and Mr Buell questioned Mr Hecker at some length over the song, which the auditor had written at work in about an hour and a half in 1995.

What followed were bizarre recitals on the part of both the prosecution and the defence of the song lyrics, which included arcane references to Andersen employees' relationship with Enron, including:

"Managers in the doorway
Thinking out of the box
And I was thinking to myself
I'll bust my butt and then I'll bust rocks."

Perhaps a tad more artistic were Mr Hecker's satires of Hotel California's refrains, memorable for the line, Welcome to the Hotel California.

Mr Hecker's version went like this:

"Welcome to the Hotel Mark to Market
Such a lovely face
Such a fragile place
They livin' it up At the Hotel Cram It Down Ya
When the [law]suits arrive, bring your alibis".

'She's livin' it up'

Mr Hecker had to explain to the jury some of the peculiar accounting language contained in his lyrics, such as "mark to market", a complex type of accounting used especially among energy firms, which may make it difficult for investors to determine the worth of a company.

Mr Hecker said after he wrote the parody seven years ago he filed it away, where it lay fallow until subpoenaed by the US Government in preparation for its indictment of Andersen.

Government attorney Buell thought the song parody compelling evidence because he believed it foreshadowed future problems at Andersen, for which the firm may have already been aware - even in the mid-1990s.

Mr Hecker was the third witness to testify in the case, following two Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawyers, Thomas Newkirk and Spencer Barasch.

Mr Hecker also testified about a phone conversation he had last August with Enron accountant Sherron Watkins about concerns she had over the company's accounting practices.

Ms Watkins has been hailed as a hero since she attempted to alert then-Chairman Kenneth Lay to her concerns.

Of Ms Watkins, Mr Hecker said she was an "intelligent and assertive individual" who at the time of their conversation had some "very good questions" about certain Enron accounting practices.

See also:

08 May 02 | Business
KPMG Consulting eyes Andersen units
07 May 02 | Business
Andersen trial begins in earnest
06 May 02 | Business
Lawyers line up Andersen jury
06 May 02 | Business
Q&A: Andersen in court
02 May 02 | Business
Andersen lawsuit talks collapse
02 May 02 | Business
Audit giants called to account
19 Mar 02 | Business
Q&A: Andersen offices defect to KPMG
19 Mar 02 | Business
Andersen regions in break-up talks
15 Mar 02 | Business
US bans Andersen from official work
29 Jan 02 | Business
Andersen on the defensive
06 May 02 | Business
The Andersen trial at-a-glance
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