Former Andersen partner Duncan wraps up long week at obstruction of justice trial

By Kristen Hays, The Associated Press
Saturday May 18, 2002

HOUSTON — Former Arthur Andersen partner David Duncan wrapped up a week of testimony in the firm’s obstruction of justice trial Friday by saying he never explicitly told his colleagues to “destroy” Enron documents. 

Duncan, 43, said he mentioned Andersen’s document policy in a 30-minute “pep talk” to his Enron audit team last October. But he said he didn’t specify that they destroy anything or single out Enron, which at the time was coming under scrutiny from government investigators. 

“We believed we had done everything appropriately,” Duncan recalled telling his staff of about 100 people. 

Andersen is accused of shredding documents and deleting computer records related to Enron audits to keep them away from investigators for the Securities and Exchange Commission. Duncan pleaded guilty April 9 to directing the effort and destroying documents himself in exchange for leniency in sentencing. 

Duncan’s testimony had been highly anticipated amid speculation that he would provide details of the complex partnerships suspected in Enron’s spectacular and devastating bankruptcy in December. 

But in five days of testimony on how Andersen handled the Enron account, Duncan provided no bombshells. 

Told by the judge he could step down, he asked, “For good?” 

“For this trial,” she responded. 

Earlier, Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Buell said outside the jury’s presence that prosecutors believe in-house Andersen lawyer Nancy Temple, not Duncan, would be the government’s central witness. 

However, Temple last week invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to testify. 

Duncan’s meeting with his staff came on Oct. 23 — 11 days after Temple sent an e-mail from Andersen’s Chicago headquarters to Michael Odom, a partner in Houston, that said the Enron audit team ought to be reminded of the firm’s “documentation and retention policy.”