HOUSTON — A partner with accounting firm Arthur Andersen testified Friday that he didn't consider another partner's presentation of the firm's document-retention policy last October as an instruction to shred Enron Corp.-related documents.
Carl Bass, a Houston-based Andersen partner whose criticism of Enron's accounting prompted Enron officials to push to get him barred from consulting with Enron auditors earlier last year, said another local Andersen partner, Mike Odom, discussed the policy during an Oct. 10 continuing education meeting for the firm's workers.
That was two days before in-house Andersen lawyer Nancy Temple sent Odom an e-mail from the firm's Chicago headquarters reminding workers of the policy.
"He did talk about e-mails and stuff like that, but I don't recall the entire presentation," Bass said.
In addition, Bass said no one suggested he get rid of e-mails and other documentation of his disapproval of some accounting approaches that fueled Enron's descent into bankruptcy last year.
Temple invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination via mail Friday.
In January, she told Congress: "I never counseled any shredding or destruction of documents. I only wish that someone would have raised the question." The Justice Department since has told her she is a target in their investigation.
The firm is on trial for obstruction of justice for shredding documents and deleting computer records related to Enron audits in October and November as the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the energy company's finances. Andersen says no one intentionally destroyed Enron-related documents to keep them out of the hands of the SEC.
Outside the jury's presence Friday, tension between prosecutors and defense attorneys erupted over questions and comments made within the jury's earshot.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Sam Buell complained in a bench conference that Andersen attorney Rusty Hardin repeatedly has tried to inject support of the firm's defense in his questioning of witnesses.
Buell said prosecutors were tired of "getting up all the time" to object to Hardin's questions. Hardin said prosecutors "were like little jumping beans" and he had "never seen lawyers whine like [Buell] just did at the bench."
Also Friday, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon refused Hardin's request that attorneys for David Duncan turn over their notes of his meetings with federal prosecutors before he pleaded guilty April 9 to directing shredding. Duncan, who is expected to testify next week, was Andersen's lead auditor for Enron until he was fired Jan. 15.