Journalists and Enron

Remember Enron?  One of the aspects of the Enron case that the media latched on to was the document destruction at Arthur Anderson, destruction AA claims was routine but prosecutors and many in the media tried to classify as obstruction of justice.  So I thought this bit from Reason was interesting:

For decades, newsrooms have
shredded or thrown away notes some time after using them both to save space and
to prevent prosecutors like Fitzgerald from demanding them as part of an
investigation. This "routine expungement is a longstanding practice in many
news organizations," says Sandra Davidson, a professor of communications law at
the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Hmmm, sounds familiar, huh?  The article goes on to point out the obvious - that the Sarbanes-Oxley provisions rushed into law and cheer-led by most journalists may come back to bite the media:

And for the press, the "obstruction of justice" provision [of Sarbanes-Oxley]
may cover more than just withholding notes from the government once an
investigation has begun. It may also endanger the common practice of routinely
destroying notes to protect anonymous sources.... Sarbanes-Oxley, because it
covers document destruction even "in contemplation" of a federal investigation,
could apply to the press's "routine expungement" practices, scholars say. "If
you're destroying documents to prevent them from being subpoenaed," says
Rotunda, "you have a risk that a vigorous prosecutor will think of that as
obstruction of justice."

  • But they're journalists... who work for newspapers; and they'll claim they're "special" meaning that they shouldn't have to adhere to the same restrictions as those nasty capitalists.

  • Burton Burland Jr.

    It's about time this trial got started, otherwise it may not end in time for Bush to pardon these turkeys before he leaves office.