Andersen Figure Files to Withdraw His Guilty Plea

Wall Street Journal


November 23, 2005; Page C3

David Duncan, whose work for Arthur Andersen LLP on the Enron Corp. account contributed to the firm’s downfall, yesterday filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in connection with his alleged obstruction of the federal investigation of Enron.

In a separate court filing yesterday, the Justice Department moved to dismiss its criminal case against Andersen, the onetime accounting giant whose own conviction for obstruction of justice in the Enron matter was overturned by the Supreme Court in late May. The move had been expected in light of the Supreme Court ruling and the fact that Andersen is now defunct as an accounting firm.

Mr. Duncan’s move, which isn’t being opposed by the Justice Department, is the latest twist in the downfall of Arthur Andersen. As Andersen’s lead auditor on the Enron account, Mr. Duncan oversaw the destruction of Enron-related documents as the crisis at the energy company was exploding in late 2001. After initially denying any wrongdoing, Mr. Duncan pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. He has been awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Duncan was the government’s star witness at the 2002 criminal trial of Andersen. However, a number of observers viewed him as a weak witness since he at times seemed uncertain whether he had actually committed a crime.

In overturning the Andersen conviction, the Supreme Court found that the jury hadn’t been sufficiently instructed that it needed to determine the defendant had consciously known it was wrong to destroy the documents.

Mr. Duncan’s plea-withdrawal motion, filed in Houston federal court, also cited the Supreme Court decision.