Notes: Find a bad apple -- Get rid of the whole tree instead of the apple? That seems to be what the Department of Justice is doing with its indictment of Arthur Andersen.

Caught up in the scandal of its former client, Enron, Andersen employees apparently shredded documents and erased e-mails. The indictment was a surprise to the company since -- according to Joseph Berardino, its just-resigned chief excutive officer -- Andersen had reported what it knew about the document destruction.

With clients already abandoning Andersen, some think the indictment spells the end of the firm. Acknowledging that Justice knows much more I, it seems odd to me that the department went after the company instead of the individuals who allegedly committed crimes. A result of indicting the company may be the loss of hundreds, even thousands, of jobs by Andersen employees who had absolutely nothing to do with Enron.

Moreover, Andersen had been in talks with the government to settle its legal problems for $500,000,000. The indictment can bring a fine of $500,000 and probation if a guilty verdict attains. But the consequences of a guilty verdict will be far greater.

Feisty Houston attorney Rusty Hardin is leading the trial defense for Andersen. Hardin -- a former prosecutor -- once said to his co-counsel before beginning his decimating cross-examination of a defense expert witness, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Hardin has taken the aggressive strategy of forcing a very early trial of the Andersen case to begin in April. Two matters, I think, brought about this strategy: 1) The Justice Department will have a difficult time preparing its case in such short time, and 2) for public relations purposes, the company wants to get the trial behind it with the hope of winning quickly.
03.31.02