Is Enron Still Shredding Documents?

A former Enron executive told ABCNEWS in an exclusive interview that Enron shredded documents after federal authorities began investigating the energy giant's collapse. An Enron attorney says the company is investigating the report. How Can Investors Spot Enron-Type Trouble? Congressional Hearings Ahead Enron Collapse: Full Coverage Weigh In: Where Will Enron Case End?
Document-shredding continued at Enron's headquarters up until at least last week, despite federal subpoenas and court orders since last October forbidding the destruction of documents, a former Enron executive told ABCNEWS in an exclusive interview.
Maureen Castaneda, the former director of Enron's foreign investments section, said the shredding was done in an accounting office on the 19th floor of the company's Houston headquarters.
"I left the second week of January and the shredding was going on until the day I left, and I have no idea if it continues," said Castaneda, who worked across the hall from the accounting office.
"After Thanksgiving, there was great interest in the accounting documents stored," she said. "They pulled out all the boxes and people had to go through every box."
William Lerach, an attorney for Enron's shareholders, told The Associated Press, "They even shredded on Christmas Day."
He said he would take some of the shredded documents to federal court Tuesday to demand an explanation and ask that all relevant Enron documents be put in the custody of the court.
Enron attorney Bob Bennett told ABCNEWS today that all employees had been forbidden to shred any documents as of Oct. 25.
"At a very early time, the legal team made all employees aware of the pending litigation and that all documents should be retained," Bennett told ABCNEWS. "If anyone has disobeyed that policy or if anyone is discovered to have shredded documents it will not be tolerated and severe action will be taken."
He also said the company was investigating the reports.
'A Smoking Howitzer'
Castaneda said she discovered the shredded documents when she was cleaning out her office and looking for packing material. She showed ABCNEWS boxes full of shredded documents dated from November and December, which she found in the hallway.
"I got these when I was leaving work, to basically use for packing material," she said. "I only took one box."
The word "confidential" can be seen on the shredded papers, which were densely packed into the box she showed ABCNEWS.
"A lot are accounting documents," explained Castaneda. "You can tell because of the colors yellow and pink."
Also, she found shreds with references to some of Enron's secret, off-the-books partnerships, such as Jedi, which is believed by investigators to have helped bring Enron down. Lawyers in the case regard this as likely evidence of a criminal act: destroying documents in the middle of a federal investigation is potential obstruction of justice.
Lerach said, "You just have to conclude, based on what we know to date, this was a deliberate coordinated effort to destroy evidence."
He called the latest revelations "a smoking howitzer." ___
ABCNEWS' Brian Ross and The Associated Press contributed to this report. i

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