CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER
Andrew Weissmann, Heading to Jenner, Not Looking Back at Enron
Corporate Crime Reporter 9(10), February 23, 2006
Let’s say that cameras were allowed in federal courts.
And you could watch a direct feed of the trial of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling from the privacy of your own home.
Would Andrew Weissmann, the former director of the Enron Task Force, watch?
He would not.
Weissmann will start at Jenner & Block next month.
And he’s not looking back.
“After three and a half years, I decided it was time to move on,” Weissmann told Corporate Crime Reporter. “If I wanted a direct feed, I would have decided to stay and do it (prosecute the case) myself.”
Weissmann says that the time he spent on the Enron Task Force was a grueling experience.
“It takes a huge toll on one's personal life,” Weissmann said. “You are living out of a suitcase for, in my case, almost four years.”
But he’s proud of what the task force accomplished.
“On a symbolic level, the term Enron and what it stands for has become part of American language and culture. It is iconic. It is referred to constantly in describing all sorts of corrupt dealings,” Weissmann said. “It is important for the public to see that the Department of Justice takes seriously such crimes, even if committed by the richest and most powerful people, and will get to the bottom of it, and hold them accountable.”
Weissmann also prosecuted the Arthur Andersen case.
He says he wasn’t surprised when he heard that the Supreme Court had overturned the conviction of Andersen on obstruction charges.
“That day was not that dramatic, because the oral argument foretold the outcome,” he said.
But Weissmann defends the prosecution of Andersen against a growing consensus in the defense bar that the firm should not have been prosecuted.
“The company through its choices had given the Department of Justice an ‘all or nothing’ ultimatum,” Weissmann said. “People need to remember that Andersen had been offered a deferred prosecution agreement and rejected it.”
He believes that as a result of the Andersen prosecution, more and more corporations are jumping at deferred and non prosecution agreements when offered.
“One of the fallouts from Andersen is that corporations are much more willing to say yes to deferred prosecution agreements, because they can see what happened to Andersen,” Weissmann said. “What major corporation is now going to gamble that the Justice Department is going to go away and issue a declination? That's one of the reasons you are seeing a dramatic rise in deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements.”
Did he see the film: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room?
“I did,” Weissmann said. “And I thought the director Alex Gibney did a really terrific job and I told him that. The difficulty was – how do you take a very complex topic and make it entertaining and intelligible. Someone who wants to be entertained isn't likely to say, ‘Honey, let's go see that movie on mark to market accounting.’”
Has he read New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s book: Conspiracy of Fools?
“I have to confess – I have not finished it,” Weissmann said.
(For a complete transcript of the question/answer format interview with Andrew Weissmann, see 20 Corporate Crime Reporter 9(10-16), February 27, 2006, print edition only)
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