High court hears Andersen case

April 27, 2005 at 2:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Wednesday on whether former auditing giant Arthur Andersen LLP committed witness tampering by shredding documents.

When the company learned one of its clients, the Exxon Corp., was in trouble for improper accounting practices -- and the auditing firm itself was facing investigation -- Andersen directed its employees to comply with the company's "document retention policy."

That consisted of shredding documents that were no longer needed in the course of business.

While Enron was investigated, more than two tons of paper was shipped to Andersen's main office in Houston for shredding. The shredding continued until Andersen was served a subpoena.

The lower courts held Andersen liable for witness tampering for obstructing an official proceeding of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But an attorney for Andersen told the high court Wednesday the government improperly instructed a Texas jury that any destruction of documents in the face of a possible investigation was a crime.

The justices should rule before their summer recess at the end of June.

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