Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Price of a Poor Defense 

When my colleague sent me the news story that the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Arthur Andersen, the former accounting firm, for document destruction, it struck me again how unfair the government can be. Federal prosecutors wanted heads to pay for the Enron affair. They got a conviction -- unjustly.

The conviction destroyed the firm and its legacy that, despite errors, was a proud one. No company should have to pay with its life for something it did not legally do, but Arthur Andersen did. If there was ever justification for a strong communications program, this case is it. Andersen allowed itself to be boxed. It should have fought like hell and made its case to the public repeatedly.

We know from experience that when companies fight, they stand a better chance than those that don't. The older I get, the more I believe that settling cases and giving in too easily is not the thing to do. CEOs should stand and be counted when they believe they are in the right. They owe it to the thousands of people who depend on them.

Andersen was upheld, but it's dead. What good is that?


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