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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
'Chief shredder' to appear in Andersen trial
David Duncan, Andersen's disgraced partner
David Duncan remained silent before Congress
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By Briony Hale
BBC News Online business reporter
line
One of the most important and elusive characters of the Enron scandal is expected to testify in a Houston courtroom on Monday.

David Duncan was the lead Andersen partner in charge of auditing Enron, checking off and approving the accounts that later turned out to be vastly overstated.

David Duncan leaves court
Each twist and turn of the scandal is being watched by the media

As such, he is the most obvious Andersen executive to single out for blame.

But Mr Duncan is also believed to be the only person in the case to have struck a deal with prosecutors.

He refused to speak before congressional hearings, but pleaded guilty to obstructing the course of justice in an unexpected u-turn in April.

That u-turn infuriated his former employers who said that he had completely changed his story after months of protesting innocence.

This week's courtroom appearance will be the first time the 43-year old accountant has explained his side of the story since the scandal erupted.

Acting on orders?

Mr Duncan's actions are the reason why Andersen has ended up in court.

But it was the destruction of evidence rather than the approval of Enron's misleading accounts that provoked the criminal indictment.

The case is expected to boil down to whether Mr Duncan can prove he was acting on orders from above.

Andersen fired Mr Duncan in January for destroying thousands of Enron-related documents in order to hamper an inquiry into financial mismanagement at the energy giant.

In April, Mr Duncan admitted to having shredded the paperwork, but also agreed to testify against Andersen for orchestrating the campaign to destroy incriminating evidence.

Mr Duncan is expected to say he was acting on an e-mail from Andersen lawyer Nancy Temple.

Ms Temple denies giving such advice.

So far, all Andersen witnesses called to testify by the prosecution have said they were not told to destroy Enron documents, but acknowledged receiving an e-mail from Ms Temple containing the company's document retention policy

Scapegoat?

Andersen's former chief executive, Joseph Berardino, once hoped to lay the blame almost exclusively on Mr Duncan and rescue the rest of the firm.

Instead, the global Andersen network has been carved up and sold off to rivals, while the US arm is left hanging on by a thread.

David Duncan was a high-profile partner at Andersen and received an estimated bonus of $150,000 for his work at Enron, just weeks before it began to unravel.

Andersen could face probation for five years and a fine of up to $500,000 if convicted.

The firm could also be fined up to twice any gains or damages caused by its action and could be barred from auditing listed companies.

Mr Duncan's charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, with sentencing set for 26 August.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Gregory in Houston
"[David Duncan] was Andersen's top man responsible for dealing with Enron"
See also:

06 May 02 | Business
Q&A: Andersen in court
06 May 02 | Business
The Andersen trial at-a-glance
05 May 02 | Business
Shredding for gold
02 Apr 02 | Business
Andersen-KPMG merger on the rocks
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