Andersen exec defends Andersen lawyer maligned by prosecutors

By Mark Babineck, The Associated Press
Wednesday May 29, 2002

HOUSTON – After prosecutors spent three weeks quizzing a witness list packed with Arthur Andersen LLP employees as the government tried to prove obstruction of justice against the accounting firm, the defense has fired back with one of its own. 

Richard Corgel, a high-level executive based in the firm’s Los Angeles office, testified Monday that an Oct. 12 e-mail sent by in-house attorney Nancy Temple was not a tacit order to destroy documents — as prosecutors contend — but instead a routine housekeeping reminder. 

Corgel also defended Temple, whom prosecutors have labeled publicly their No. 1 witness to document destruction at Andersen last autumn as the Securities and Exchange Commission was gearing up an investigation into client Enron Corp. 

“She wanted to do what was right from a professional perspective, what was right from a document retention perspective,” said Corgel, who served with Temple and three others on an Andersen team dispatched in late October and early November to sort through auditing problems on the Enron account. 

Corgel also told the 16 members of the jury panel that he never saw or heard anyone order destruction of documents, and that he would have questioned someone who made such an order. 

Corgel was the first witness called by Andersen’s lawyers after prosecutors called 19 during the first three weeks of the plodding trial, including Temple and two others who refused to testify. The government’s last witness was FBI special agent Paula Schanzle, who endured a series of bruising questions during lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin’s cross-examination. 

Hardin got Schanzle to admit Monday she had not gone through all 29,250 deleted e-mails that had been reconstructed by Andersen, even though she told a grand jury a “vast majority” dealt with Enron. Defense attorneys contend she lied after their count determined only about one-third of the e-mails were related to Enron. 

Schanzle also was forced to identify six copies of a particular e-mail that had been saved by different Andersen employees after testifying Friday about another copy that had been deleted. One juror smiled broadly as Hardin kept presenting copy after copy that survived. 

“Ms. Schanzle, would you agree if there was any attempt to keep this information from the government, (Andersen is) not very good at it?” Hardin quipped. 

Schanzle, released from the stand midday Monday after taking her oath Friday, walked briskly out of the courtroom after Hardin had finished her off with an unusually loud “No more questions.” 

Prosecutors rested their case soon after the exchange. Hardin said he could call as many as 11 more witnesses after Corgel and expected to take the rest of the week laying out the firm’s case. 

“Mr. Corgel is out there to paint the face of the company and how things work (there),” Hardin told reporters.