Arthur Andersen and the Temple of Doom
37 Sw. U. L. Rev. 97
38 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2016
Date Written: 2008
The story of Nancy Temple ("Temple") and Arthur Andersen ("Andersen") is infamous in legal ethics. Temple was the in-house lawyer that advised Andersen's employees to shred documents on the eve of the Security and Exchange Commission's ("SEC") investigation of Enron Corporation ("Enron"). Temple's advice triggered a string of events that culminated in the needless demise of America's fifth-largest accounting firm. By contrast, my Arthur Andersen story is unknown, until now that is. In late 1999, I was offered the position on Andersen's in-house staff that Temple ultimately accepted. I declined the offer, for I suspected that Andersen was not seeking an independent, legal advisor as much as a legal yes-man (or yes-woman, as the case may be). In particular, I sensed that Andersen's in-house lawyers were expected to "rubber-stamp" all transactions, regardless of ethical or legal propriety. History proved my suspicions prophetic. In this article, I posit that Andersen collapsed not because of greedy partners or unethical lawyers - though both groups undoubtedly contributed to such failure - but because Andersen had an environment in which inhouse attorneys were either unable or unwilling to render the type of professional, independent legal advice required of attorneys. Andersen seemingly expected its employees, including in-house counsel, to protect the "firm" and its clients at all costs, legal or otherwise. Temple apparently strived to meet such expectations and, by so doing, destroyed the firm. In the end, though, it was Andersen's corporate culture - and not Nancy Temple - was Andersen's "Temple of Doom."
Keywords: Arthur Andersen, Enron Corporation, Legal ethics
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