WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Department has rejected an offer from embattled accounting firm Andersen to settle an obstruction of justice charge arising from the Enron collapse, the firm said on Thursday.
Rusty Hardin, attorney for the Chicago-based firm said, "they just rejected it out of hand."
A Justice Deparment spokesman said the agency had no comment.
Faced with a May 6 trial on the criminal charge stemming from Andersen's role in the collapse of energy trader Enron Corp, the firm proposed on Wednesday a last ditch offer to settle with the government.
"Now we just continue to prepare for trial. I don't think there's anything left to talk to the government about," Hardin told Reuters.
Hardin said earlier that the latest proposal rejected by Justice closely resembled earlier offers focused on a deferred prosecution deal.
The Big Five firm had said it would acknowledge its employees should not have destroyed thousands of Enron-related audit documents last fall after learning the Securities and Exchange Commission wanted to inspect the files.
Andersen had also been willing to submit to a form of legal probation, but has steadfastly refused to plead guilty to the obstruction charge. The firm was said to be at odds with Justice over the terms and scope of the probation.
Talks between Justice and Andersen over a deferred prosecution plan collapsed last week.
Houston-based Enron filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in December, wiping out billions of dollars in equity and triggering a crisis of confidence in U.S. stock markets.
Andersen has been accused of blessing Enron's alleged use of a vast web of off-balance sheet entities to deceive investors, hide losses and enrich senior executives.