The international accountancy newswires have been humming over the past week with stories about the latest incarnation of once grand Big Five firm, Arthur Andersen.
When we last encountered the name on AccountingWEB in the UK, it was to report the creation of a “new Andersen” in the US, where San Francisco-based WTAS had reached a settlement with liquidators to re-christen itself Andersen Tax.
But in a dramatic move last week, a French outfit announced to the world on LinkedIn that it was the rightful heir and successor to the Andersen crown. This followed some early PR signals during the Autumn that plans were taking shape for a relaunch.
“As from the 1st of March 2017, it is a reality: Arthur Andersen is reconstituted, with 26 offices on 5 continents and in 16 Countries,” wrote Stéphane Laffont-Réveilhac. In his guise as the firm’s global managing partner, he said the new entity was already operating in the USA, France, Greece, India, Brazil and the Middle East - with discussions underway to set up in China, Canada and South America.
The announcement was hardly likely to go down well at Andersen Tax, and before you could even squeeze in the backstory of a professional giant brought down by Enron’s greed and some untimely reports of shredding, litigation was underway.
In an email to Accounting Today, Andersen Tax chief executive Mark Vorsatz wrote: “We purchased the rights to the Andersen brand in the US and worldwide and have filed trademarks in over 50 jurisdictions. We have filed an action against them in France to require that they cease and desist use of the name.”
Insults and legal threats have been flying across the Atlantic ever since. Alleging that Andersen Tax offered to sell the new organisation the rights to its trademarks and logos Laffont-Réveilhac blogged, “Such behavior is clearly contrary to the ARTHUR ANDERSEN values and shows that these individuals on the rope are panicked and unscrupulous. They are blinded by their ego, arrogance, lies and greed.”
The Paris-based claimant to the Andersen throne called a press conference on Monday to present evidence of these 2015 negotiations, but it was subsequently cancelled.
While bystanders are certainly getting their money’s worth out of the crossfire, it hardly creates an image of the probity for which the Andersen name is supposed to be famed. And even though it was eventually cleared of the wrong-doing at Enron that brought down the firm, it’s hard to see why anyone is fighting over such a tarnished brand.