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Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States
United States Supreme Court
544 U.S. 696, 125 S.Ct. 2129, 161 L.Ed.2d 1008 (2005)
Arthur Andersen LLP (Andersen) (defendant) was Enron’s accountant during Enron’s financial record manipulation scandal in 2002. When the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an informal investigation of Enron, Andersen began telling its employees as well as Enron employees to strictly adhere to the company’s document retention policy, meaning that if any Enron-related documents were eligible to be destroyed under the policy, they should be so destroyed immediately. Andersen informed its employees of this directive multiple times and it resulted in the “substantial destruction of paper and electronic documents” that were then not available to the government in Enron’s subsequent litigation. Andersen was charged with obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b) in that it knowingly and corruptly persuaded others to withhold documents from an official proceeding. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued jury instructions which included directing the jury to find Andersen guilty even if Andersen honestly and sincerely believed that its conduct was lawful. The jury was also instructed to find Andersen guilty if it found that Andersen intended to impede governmental fact finding by telling employees to adhere to the document retention policy. The jury convicted Andersen and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the proper meaning of the obstruction of justice statute.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)
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