Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

PETITIONER: Arthur Andersen LLP
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Texas State Capitol

DOCKET NO.: 04-368
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

CITATION: 544 US 696 (2005)
GRANTED: Jan 07, 2005
ARGUED: Apr 27, 2005
DECIDED: May 31, 2005

ADVOCATES:
Joshua L. Dratel - for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as amicus curiae
Michael R. Dreeben - argued the cause for Respondent
Maureen E. Mahoney - argued the cause for Petitioner
Robert N. Weiner - for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as amicus curiae

Facts of the case

As Enron's financial difficulties became public in 2001, Arthur Andersen instructed its employees to destroy Enron-related documents. This was consistent with Andersen's document retention policy. The government later charged Andersen for violating federal law, which made it a crime to "knowingly...corruptly persuade another person" to "withold" or "alter" documents in an "offical proceeding." The federal jury found Andersen guilty. The company appealed, arguing the jury instructions failed to convey the elements of a "corrupt persuasion" conviction - specifically, that a "consciousness of wrongdoing" was required. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the conviction.

Question

Did the jury instructions in the Arthur Andersen trial properly convey the elements of a "corrupt persuasion" conviction under federal document-handling law?

Media for Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 27, 2005 in Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 31, 2005 in Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in Arthur Andersen versus the United States.

As Enron Corporation's financial difficulties became public in 2001, petitioner Arthur Andersen, Enron's auditor, instructed its employees to destroy documents pursuant to a document retention policy.

A jury found that this made Andersen criminally liable as a corrupt persuader under Section 1512(b) of Title 18, and the Section is dealing with Obstruction of Justice.

The Court of Appeals to the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

We granted certiorari and we hold that the phrase "knowingly corruptly persuades" in 1512(b) requires a consciousness of wrongdoing and that one cannot knowingly corruptly persuade another to shred documents unless one foresees a particular official proceeding in which those documents might be material.

The jury instructions here failed to correctly convey these statutory elements.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed.

The opinion of the Court is unanimous.