Supreme Court Overturns Arthur Andersen’s Conviction for Destroying Enron-Related Documents

Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States, 125 S.Ct. 2129 (2005)

Arthur Andersen, Enron’s auditor, instructed employees to destroy documents pursuant to its document retention policy when Enron’s financial problems became public in 2001. Arthur Andersen was convicted under USC ?߬ߠ1512(b)(2)(A) and (B) in connection this destruction. The conviction was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit, but today was reversed by the Supreme Court because jury instructions failed to convey properly the elements of a corrupt persuasion conviction under ?߱512(b).

The jury instructions “…failed to convey the requisite consciousness of wrongdoing. Indeed, it is striking how little culpability the instructions required.” No type of dishonesty or nexus between the persuasion to destroy documents and any particular proceeding was necessary to a finding of guilt.

The court noted that document retention policies designed to keep information from others, including government, are common, and that it is not wrongful for a manager to instruct employees to comply with policies under ordinary circumstances.

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