EXCLUSIVE: ICAEW launches Andersen probe

The request comes after Andersen in the US was indicted on criminal charges of obstruction and could lead to an investigation of Andersen’s London offices by the institute. A spokesman for the institute confirmed that it was ‘in touch with US authorities’.

The indictment issued last Thursday stated documents related to the Enron audit had also been shredded at Andersen’s London office. It was the first time that an Andersen office outside the US had been implicated in the shredding of Enron documents.

But lawyers close to the profession have said privately that the institute will have to investigate the role of the Andersenås UK partnership or it will appear a ‘whitewash’.

‘The fact that they’ve been seconded makes management at that office responsible for them,’ said one expert.

A statement issued by the institute last Friday said: ‘The information we have is that the London-based personnel were on secondment from the United States and therefore it is possible that they are not subject to the institute’s jurisdiction.’

Andersen in London has said there was ‘no evidence any material Enron related documents connected to the work of the UK firm was deliberately destroyed’.

The news comes as Andersen’s UK senior managing partner John Ormerod announced a rescue deal, excluding the US arm, involving a merger with rival firm KPMG. On Tuesday Ormerod refused to be drawn on questions about document-shredding at his firm but said UK partners were safe from claims in the US.

‘We are a separate legal entity from the US firm. There have been no questions raised here about our legal position.’

Although the ICAEW will initially be tasked with launching an investigation, if the case is found to be in the public interest it would then be referred to the profession’s watchdog, the Joint Disciplinary Scheme.

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