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Jurors in Arthur Andersen LLP’s obstruction trial in Houston watched a video Monday in which audit team managers were told destroying documents before litigation is filed is “great” because “whatever might have been of interest to anybody is gone and irretrievable.” Michael Odom, a practice manager and partner in Andersen’s Houston office, made the remarks Oct. 10 while instructing audit team managers to follow the Chicago-based firm’s document retention policy. The accounting firm is charged with obstruction of justice for destroying records related to Enron Corp. audits last year as the Securities and Exchange Commission started probing the energy company’s finances. The video was among evidence presented by prosecutors to demonstrate Odom and Nancy Temple, an in-house Andersen lawyer who has invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to testify, urged compliance with the policy as the Enron scandal loomed. David B. Duncan, Andersen’s former top Enron auditor, heard Odom’s presentation. He testified last week he didn’t walk away thinking he had to destroy Enron documents. Odom, who has not testified, told the audit managers group Oct. 10 that Andersen recently had produced documents for pending litigation and “we found a lot of stuff that we shouldn’t have retained” because it included drafts and memos not included in final audit papers. Odom said once litigation is filed, the firm can’t destroy anything. But if workers destroy records in compliance with the policy up until the day before litigation is filed, “that’s great,” he said. On Oct. 12, Temple sent Odom the reminder of the document retention policy: “It will be helpful to make sure that we have complied with the policy.” Odom sent it to Duncan, who told his staff Oct. 23 to comply. Minutes later on Oct. 12, records introduced Monday showed Temple created a written record of a litigation claim about the Enron account, though the SEC didn’t notify Enron of its informal inquiry until five days later. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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