The Significant Meaninglessness of Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States

Although I hate to begin a serious article on an important Supreme Court case this way, the Court’s recent decision Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States reminds me of nothing so much as the old Woody Allen line that “sex without love is an empty experience…but as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best.” This is because, for all practical purposes, Andersen is a meaningless decision, but as meaningless decisions go, it’s one of the most significant. The Supreme Court’s reversal of Andersen’s conviction cannot revive the now-defunct firm, and the obstruction of justice statute that the Court is interpreting has, in all ways relevant to Andersen’s conviction, been superseded by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. And yet, by interpreting the language of the statute to require the consciousness of wrongdoing, the Court may be indicating an important change of direction in the way it deals with the federal law of white collar crime. If so, Andersen may turn out to be a very important meaningless decision.