- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

HOUSTON (AP) Some top Arthur Andersen LLP partners were concerned last fall that the firm could be "in the crosshairs" of the Securities and Exchange Commission if the agency decided to get tough on accounting firms, according to documents presented in federal court yesterday.

Prosecutors in Andersen's obstruction-of-justice trial presented e-mails between partners at the firm's Chicago headquarters that included an Oct. 26 message from managing partner C.E. Andrews that said Andersen could become a target.

The message said officials needed to discuss how to manage a worst-case scenario, in which Andersen "will be in the crosshairs" of federal regulators.

The firm is charged with obstruction for shredding documents and deleting e-mails related to Enron Corp. audits in October and November as the SEC investigated the energy company's finances. Andersen claims no one intentionally destroyed Enron-related documents to keep them out of the hands of the SEC.

Amy Ripepi, head of Andersen's Professional Standards Group, which advises the firm's auditors on accounting issues, testified yesterday that the message didn't specifically mention Enron Corp.

"I don't see what in these e-mails is about Enron," Miss Ripepi said.

Andersen's attorney, Rusty Hardin, failed to convince U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon to prevent prosecutors from displaying the message for the jury while questioning Miss Ripepi, even though she was not one of the partners who received it.

Mr. Hardin first argued the point with Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Buell at the judge's bench out of the jury's earshot. He then complained openly during a jury break that Judge Harmon was allowing prosecutors to question witnesses about what other people wrote, said or thought when she previously had refused to allow him to do the same.

Also yesterday, it was disclosed that a third witness in Andersen's trial informed prosecutors of plans to invoke his or her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to testify. The witness, who hasn't been identified, wants to invoke the right without appearing in court.

Judge Harmon did not rule immediately on a prosecution request to require the witness to come to court to invoke the Fifth.

Last week, Kate Agnew, a former Andersen manager on the Enron account, took the Fifth at Judge Harmon's bench .

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