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Do you remember where you were when you saw the famous cartoon that killed Arthur Andersen?  I received a copy via e-mail, and soon had a print up on my office door.

How could it be that a cartoon killed Arther Anderson (once of the mighty Big 8,7, 6, and 5, but not the Big 4)?

First, a bit of history for those of you too young to have been there.  Arthur Andersen was declared dead officially June 15, 2002, when it was convicted of criminal obstruction of justice.  Arthur Andersen entered a vegetative state in March, 2002, when criminal charges were filed against it.  Arthur Andersen was seriously wounded in October, 2001, when it began shredding documents.  Reports Unmesh Kher of Time,

… Nancy Temple, a lawyer with the company, sent a memo reminding employees of Andersen’s document-retention policies on Oct. 12. The memo, observers suspect, was a tacit order to start the shredding.

And now, to add a new twist to the scandal, plaintiffs’ lawyers involved in the deposition of Duncan’s former assistant Shannon Adlong told TIME last week that the shredding of documents actually began on Oct. 13 — 10 days before Andersen admitted it started and a day after Temple’s memo. Adlong, who was responsible for ordering extra bags for the shredded papers, said so much evidence had to be destroyed that 32 “trunks,” each the size of a football locker, were hauled off by a shredding company.

Word of shredding leaked out quickly, and soon I received an e-mail with the following cartoon attached:

After this cartoon spread around the world, AA had no chance.  It’s fate was sealed.  The cartoon welded Andersen’s crime to an immensely popular TV advertising campaign.  Whenever Sprint aired its ads, at least some viewers would think of Andersen and shredding  Overnight, Andersen was guilty in the court of public opinion.  It would be only a matter of time before a court of law caught up with it.

I remain convinced it was the circulation of this cartoon that prompted the SEC subpoena on December 1, 2001, for Andersen’s remaining documents.  That, and the fact that Andersen really did the crime.

Eventually, Andersen’s shredding made it into a real commercial advertisement.  The following commercial was first aired on November 28, 2002, after Andersen was officially dead.

Thanks to the Grumpy Old Accountants and Going Concern for reminding me of the 10 year Enron anniversary.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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