It was a beautiful Saturday morning in the spring of 2005 and under normal circumstances, I would have been out with my three kids going to the park, setting up playdates, exploring and the like, but as hard as I tried nothing felt normal. I was a defendant in a criminal case that I had no idea what things were going to happen and when. At that time, my activities were a juggling act combining me working and playing with the kids as much as I felt I could afford given Court deadlines and projects that my attorney gave me.
The doorbell rang mid-morning and a familiar face smiled at me. Robin was the CPA I contacted when Fund III failed. It was only at the conclusion of Fund III that I understood the very poor job the Fund III accountant had done and the accounting work that truly needed to be tackled. I found Robin to be efficient and thorough.
Robin had spent the better part of a few weeks in my home office using my computer to reconcile all the Fund III accounting records about 4 years prior. I was always close by as she went through one pile of numbers after another. From all the original business records, she was able to create the necessary financial reports to show everyone just where every Fund III penny had gone to. It was vital as we were communicating with Fund III investors and wanted to be transparent and give them tax information.
Carefully, Robin stepped into my house and saw me with my kids. The last time I had seen her, I was quite pregnant and she had never met my other kids. Her eyes seemed to survey the situation as if to say…this is the family who is at risk. Robin and I had no reason to keep in touch after her Fund III reconciliation, so it was curious that she stopped in unexpectedly.
Robin explained that she had been contacted by the Government. I swallowed hard as she continued to explain the purpose of her visit. The Government wanted her to recreate the financials because all the original business records were destroyed. I can only imagine the look on my face when she said that the original business records were destroyed. Like, what? Back up. The 22 original business records that Robin and I had worked on together were now nowhere to be found just a couple months after I have been charged with a crime. What an amazing coincidence I am loudly thinking.
Robin asked if I still had the computer that she had used when she had reconciled Fund III at my house years prior. I said I did and she was able to set up the computer and run reports that assured her that no one had tampered with any of the files she had previously worked on. She smiled at me as if to understand that having pristine files to work with might be helpful to her and to me, but she was proceeding cautiously. As I walked Robin to the door, she asked to come back in a couple of days and print some information out to which I readily agreed.
It was crazy news to me that all the documents were missing and I just sat for a few minutes quickly flooded with emotion. On one hand, it seemed like great news because why/how could we possibly move on with a criminal case when the essence of the case was grounded in those documents. On the other hand, would the Government continue to try to make a case against me? Testimony from people involved many years later could never substitute for documentation at the time of Fund III. People’s memories can be convenient and out of context. I began to vacillate from hope to doom again.
I called Dan which I rarely did on the weekend. It was clear that as intense as the case was for me, it was for Dan too and he needed a break. The weekends were usually off-limits, a time to rejuvenate. This news seemed potentially game-changing, so I selfishly called Dan with this startling news. Fortunately, I was able to quickly catch up with Dan and told him about Robin’s visit. Dan was stunned. He shared my disbelief and just wasn’t sure how it would impact the case. For now, just the fact that maybe there was hope again that the truth would resurface gave me a lift.
The thought that my Government would prosecute me when the original business documents that I had painstakingly cared for were now unavailable was now front and center. I couldn’t imagine that the case would go forward. I just didn’t want to imagine. I did everything I could to preserve the Fund III documents. There was hope again. Even bigger hope began to swell that key decision-makers would see the situation for what it was and say that it would be unjust to proceed. I let my mind go there.
The culture in my community at this time regarding a similar issue of the Government and key documents in a criminal case was in the news often. The Arthur Andersen/Enron case came to light when Enron suffered a collapse in the third quarter of 2001 that resulted in the largest Bankruptcy to that point in US history and numerous lawsuits alleging violations of federal securities laws. The controversy extended to Arthur Andersen, which was accused of overlooking significant sums of money that had not been represented on Enron’s books. Arthur Andersen was later found guilty on federal charges that it obstructed justice by destroying thousands of documents related to Enron. The shoe was on the other foot for me. I wanted the documents preserved as the defendant. I genuinely thought it would help prove my innocence against the crimes I was charged with. While the Government could charge Andersen with obstructing justice, I had the power to do nothing when I found out the documents were destroyed.
Ambition is applauded when we collectively strive to climb the imaginary ladder of success, but what are you doing to feed the principals that are the safety net under that ladder?