The New York Times
June 17, 2002, Monday, Late Edition - Final
Section A; Page 14; Column 5; National Desk

A Big Misunderstanding Or a Calculated Gamble?


When Nancy Temple decided to take a job at Arthur Andersen two years ago, she sat down with a good friend, Holly Harrison, to explain her reasons. Ms. Harrison recalled that her friend had seen it as a way to get "a balanced life."

"Nancy found herself in a situation where she had never really taken time for herself," Ms. Harrison said. "She was incapable of giving it any less than 105 percent. I think she was thinking it would be something of a lifestyle change for her."

The lifestyle certainly changed, but not for the better. Today, Arthur Andersen stands devastated by a guilty verdict in a Houston trial that focused not on the firm's accounting work for Enron, not on its destruction of documents related to Enron, but on Ms. Temple's lawyering.

In a trial of almost six weeks, prosecutors hammered at Ms. Temple's memorandums and telephone conversations -- especially an October e-mail message in which she reminded Andersen employees of the company's policy on "document retention."

Prosecutors and lawmakers who have investigated Andersen's role in the collapse of Enron said that Ms. Temple was in fact sending subtle signals to begin the widespread destruction of documents that followed.

But the jurors did not focus on any of that in reaching their verdict. Instead, they found that Ms. Temple's editing suggestion to David B. Duncan, the lead partner in the Enron account, on a single memorandum obstructed justice. Ms. Temple, 38, recommended that Mr. Duncan remove a passage that described a disagreement with an Enron executive over whether the wording of a news release on the company's finances was misleading.


Prosecutors ... paint[ed] a portrait of a corporate lawyer who saw trouble ahead from the Securities and Exchange Commission and subtly alerted the firm to take evasive action. In his opening statement, Matthew Friedrich, a prosecutor, told jurors that Ms. Temple and Andersen management "knew not only that the S.E.C. was coming, but they knew what that could mean to the firm." ...