Case Study

Answering who knew what in the Enron barge trial

Stroz Friedberg is a specialized risk management firm built to help clients solve the complex challenges prevalent in today’s digital, connected, and regulated business world

Stroz Friedberg was retained by the Department of Justice’s Enron Task Force to assist in the identification, preservation, and interpretation of electronic evidence relating to what became known as the “Nigerian Barge” prong of the government’s investigation into Enron’s collapse. At issue was a sham sale of a $7 million Nigerian oil barge from Enron to the energy trading desk of a large brokerage house. Enron fraudulently booked the sale as revenue despite a firm promise to repurchase the barge. The brokerage house cooperated with the government, and the investigation focused on several executives on the buy and sell sides. Stroz Friedberg was asked to search the brokerage house’s computer networks and backup systems for any electronic copies of a “smoking gun” memorandum which had been produced to the government in paper form. The memorandum made clear that the barge was being “parked” with the brokerage house and not being sold to it. None of the targeted executives claimed to have authored, received, or read the memo.

Working with the brokerage house’s IT personnel, Stroz Friedberg searched terabytes of network e-mail, file server data, backup tapes, desktop computers, and removable media from multiple brokerage house offices. Stroz Friedberg identified and preserved an electronic copy of the incriminating memo in the home directory of one of the indicted brokerage executives. Our forensic analysis of the file system and embedded metadata allowed us to reach expert opinions regarding how it was received by the executive, when it was saved, and its modification before being saved — all of which were critical in belying the executive’s claim that he had never read the document in its incriminating form.

A computer forensic examiner at Stroz Friedberg testified in court over the course of two days and explained to the jury that the executive had likely received the memorandum via e-mail and that he had saved it to his home directory after editing it. This constituted strong rebuttal to the executive’s trial testimony and the trial testimony of the executive’s seasoned computer forensic expert. The Stroz Friedberg expert testimony supported the government’s theory about the executive’s knowing involvement in the income-inflating scheme.



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