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Jewish World Review March 21, 2002 / 8 Nisan, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Andersen Defense Fund? | I am starting the Arthur Andersen Defense Fund, to fight the government's unreasonable and excessive action to indict the company for obstruction of justice.

All Andersen did was shred tons of records that were clogging up their office. I maintain it was not a white-collar crime, but a crime of passion, because I can prove that at that moment, Arthur was in love with Enron.

If Andersen is found guilty, it will have to pay a $500,000 fine and serve a five-year probation - one of the stiffest sentences ever laid on a company.

This is why the indictment is unfair. There is no evidence that Andersen did anything illegal. As a matter of fact, there is no evidence it did anything at all, because everything was shredded.

Why was it shredded? That is a good question.

Andersen's defenders, and I am one of the most vociferous, say the company only did what Enron wanted them to do, and at that moment it wanted them to cook the books. Having gotten their orders, Andersen subtracted the labor and hired a fleet of shredding-machine trucks.

The question everyone is asking is why wasn't the shredding company indicted instead of Andersen? They were the ones who turned the records into spaghetti.

An Andersen accountant said, "Actually, the reason we had to shred was that there was a parade through downtown Houston for an Olympic Gold Medal winner and Andersen was short of tickertape to throw out the windows."

A lawyer for Andersen said, "If the government is going to go after anyone, it should start with the whistleblowers at Enron. They had no business looking at Enron's books and then going on the 'Larry King Show.'"

So far the Andersen Defense Fund has not raised as much as we had hoped. This is not a good time to request money for accounting firms. We hoped to get a large contribution from Enron, but they have been nickel-and-diming us.

The reason we need the defense fund is because all the hotshot lawyers have refused to defend Andersen for nothing.

By pursuing Arthur Andersen, the government is determined to put the auditors out of business. The Andersen executives describe the action as the government's firing a howitzer to kill a mosquito.

I know what you are saying. What can you do to help Andersen at this time? First, you can e-mail your congressman and tell him or her not to change our system of auditing.

You can also participate in a "Free Arthur Andersen" parade I'm organizing in Washington using any leftover tickertape from their shredding.

To keep them afloat, take your income tax business from H&R Block and give it to Arthur Andersen.

And finally, take a shredder to lunch.

Comment on JWR contributor Art Buchwald's column by clicking here.

03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

© 2002, TMS