The chief executive of the beleaguered accounting group Arthur Andersen, Joseph Berardino, resigned last night in what appeared a last attempt to save the company by persuading the US Justice Department to withdraw the criminal indictment against it.
Mr Berardino's announcement came four days after the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker urged top management to step down. Mr Volcker proposed that a new independent board, under him, could lead a revamped Andersen out of the disgrace caused by its role in the collapse of the Enron energy group in December. Earlier this month, after all efforts to reach a plea bargain failed, the federal government unsealed a one-count indictment against Andersen for obstruction of justice, arising from its shredding of documents relating to Enron.
Andersen has denounced the indictment as a gross abuse of government power and says it will plead not guilty. A trial is due to begin in Houston, Enron's home town, on 6 May.
Mr Berardino, who has been with Andersen since 1972, said last night: "I felt I had to take this step to put an exclamation point behind the voices of our people. We are a serious firm that deserves to continue."
Andersen says top management knew nothing of what was happening at Enron, and that wrongdoing was limited to a small group of employees in Houston.Reuse content