This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, March 14, 2002. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson outlined an indictment against Arthur Andersen, the big accounting firm that's now facing some big trouble here, essentially charging obstruction of justice in the shredding of those documents, saying that this was not simply the work of low-level workers, but involved the very highest members of the firm. This is coming against the firm. No individuals were named here.
Nevertheless, this comes at a time when Arthur Andersen itself has been shopping itself around as a merger partner. This makes that prohibitively more difficult right now. How prohibitively and where does the firm go from here? We have got Stan Brand here, the attorney for Arthur Andersen. Stan, good to have you.
STANLEY BRAND, ARTHUR ANDERSEN'S ATTORNEY: Thank you.
CAVUTO: What does this mean?
BRAND: Well, I mean, it's nothing new to us. What is new is that a company that self reported all this to the government is being indicted in what we believe is an unwarranted exercise of discretion in this case. We identified the partner in charge who was in charge of this operation. We disciplined that partner. We went to the department of the justice and the SEC. We have testified under oath on Congress. And our reward for coming forward and cooperating in an unprecedented manner is now a criminal death sentence on the firm.
CAVUTO: Well, wait a minute. Why should you be rewarded for what was apparently weeks, in some cases, months of shredding documents?
BRAND: Not asking for a reward. What we're asking for was the ability to structure a sanction on the company that punished the company, punished the perpetrators, but allowed the people in the company having nothing to do with this and the clients on whose shoulders some of this impact will unfortunately fall to go forward so that the company can exist, it can continue to serve its 2,300 clients, and that their filings and the integrity of the work, audit work that Andersen has done for them is not in question in front of the SEC.
CAVUTO: Well, are you afraid that Arthur Andersen, with this indictment, is finished?
BRAND: I am afraid that any public accounting firm that is criminally charged as an institution with this kind of a charge is going to lose its clients, be disbarred in the states in which it practices, be unable to file documents with the SEC and go out of business. It's going to fight this case and it's going to fight this indictment, but the impact on unwitting victims in this case, employees of Andersen who had nothing to do with this and its clients, seems a draconian use of the prosecutorial power. particularly where Andersen has come forward and offered to accept sanctions on the Houston office, to accept mandatory remedial action and some basis for allowing the company to proceed as a going concern.
CAVUTO: Don't you think somebody should have thought about those employees and their lives when this shredding was going on, knowing that was a real threat to those employees?
BRAND: That is why we took the action that we did against the people that we've identified were responsible. I am unaware of any facts in this indictment that would support a claim, which is apparently the government's claim, that Andersen as an institution, up and down the corporate ladder, sanctioned this, aided and abetted it, or authorized it. I do not believe that's the case.
CAVUTO: You have David Duncan, a partner in the firm, saying that that was the case.
BRAND: Well, he's saying that. There are other people who are not supporting that. That is what the trial will be about. Unfortunately, in the interim, between the indictment and the time we can get to trial, a lot of damage is going to be done and the question will be the irreparable that that visits on people who had nothing to do with these wrongful acts.
CAVUTO: All right. Stanley Brown, the counsel for Arthur Andersen. Thank you very much.
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