WASHINGTON (AP) Fired Enron outside auditor David Duncan refused to testify to Congress yesterday about the shredding of the energy company”s documents, invoking his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
His silence came as his former colleagues, top officials of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, sought to lay the blame squarely on him. Their denials of involvement in the shredding drew skeptical responses from members of a House panel investigating Enron”s collapse.
Duncan, who had been Andersen”s lead auditor on the Enron account, was the first witness before the House Energy and Commerce”s investigations and oversight subcommittee.
“Enron robbed the bank, Arthur Andersen provided the getaway car and they say you were at the wheel,” the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) told Duncan.
But when Greenwood began to question Duncan, asking him if he had deliberately given an order to destroy documents to “subvert governmental investigations,” Duncan cited his constitutional right to silence.
Duncan invoked it twice, telling the panel, “Respectfully, that will be my response to all your questions.” He was not questioned further and was excused.
Dorsey Baskin Jr., managing director of Andersen”s professional standards group, told the panel that Duncan directed the destruction of a substantial number of documents just as an investigation was beginning.
“We are not proud” of the destruction of the records, Baskin said.
Andersen lawyer Nancy Temple denied repeatedly that an Oct. 12 e-mail she wrote helped trigger the wave of document destruction. “I was not aware of any shredding activities,” she said.
The efforts by Baskin and other Andersen officials to deflect the full blame on Duncan for the shredding drew criticism from some subcommittee members.
As the meeting concluded five hours after it began, Greenwood told the Anderson officials, “We may have to have you back. At the end of the day here we still don”t have evidence to suggest that Mr. Duncan, who did not testify, is a rogue employee of Anderson.
“We have a lot of information we need to gather,” Greenwood said.