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Andersen Shredding Stops Too Soon

By® Staff

Originally Posted

We're getting tired of writing -- and reading -- about Arthur Andersen, but it's kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Today's lesson:

Don't commit something to email (remember Microsoft and Merrill Lynch?) or, for goodness' sake, video (!) if you're saying something that could potentially end up in court. Potentially? Okay, particularly if you're saying something that's almost certain to end up in court!

They could have learned a thing or two about magnetism from the Nixon White House.

A Houston jury had the pleasure this week of watching a video in which Michael Odom, a practice manager and partner in Andersen's local office, gleefully said shredding documents was "great." He told a room full of managers to clean their files to protect the firm in case of litigation.

"If it's destroyed in the course of normal policy and litigation is filed the next day, that's great, you know, because we've followed our own policy and whatever there's been of interest to somebody is gone and irretrievable," Odom said.

The best Andersen's defense attorney could come up with was the rather disingenuous, "They got all these documents which they're using against us, which means by definition we didn't shred them."

We're certain those remarks helped Andersen's defense in the obstruction of justice case. Next up, the Harvard Business School case study in oxymoronic business ethics.

In a side note, Shannon Adlong, assistant to David B. Duncan, Andersen's former top auditor, said in an October email message, "AARRGGH. Send more shredding bags. Just kidding, we ordered some."

It doesn't give your corporate communicator much to work with if you're forever memorialized applauding your corporation's obstruction of justice.

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