Andersen conviction overturned — vindicates the organization but it should not vindicate those who enabled the event

What a way to start the day here on the west coast.  News that the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the conviction of Andersen in the Enron case.

This is an enormous vindication of the majority of the people who embodied the vision and values of the venerable organization — but not of the few managers who enabled Andersen’s destruction.  Would that the last teams of managing partners had the dedication to the principles that guided Andersen for decades.  Their interpretation of legacy extended only to what they naively believed was the measure of success:  belonging to the same club of clout their avaricious clients had erected and whose membership they controlled.

I wrote about this two years ago in a short piece published by HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW.  The fact that the managers whose mismanagement brought Andersen down will soothe their wounded psyches with this reversal of the conviction is the only downside of today’s events.  Had they seen fit to act as stewards of Andersen’s focus on professional standards, Enron never would have happened to Andersen.  Like the other clients whose antics and shenanigans were uncovered by Andersen, Enron would have been fired as a client and its leaders exposed for who they were long before Enron imploded and Andersen exploded.

One more thing before the next blog:  this verdict is no indictment of the noble effort to prosecute white collar crime.  It is, however, a word of warning about persecuting the innocent and making scapegoats when the prosecution of a few individuals will do.  We should identify the truly guilty and learn from their mistakes.

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