Solving the Andersen saga

According to columnist Tom Rodenhauser, the dispute between Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen is about legacy and brand, not money. He predicts the likely fallout of the upcoming ruling.

There will be considerable “analysis” of the pending arbitration decision facing Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen. A decision from the International Chamber of Commerce is due shortly.

It’s fitting that Guillermo Gamba’s decision will come when most of the world is sipping lemonade by the beach. After two-plus years of legal maneuvering, most people have forgotten the reasons for the sibling feud—and couldn't care less about the outcome. But such sagas make for good summertime reading.

The dispute’s genesis centers on perceived malfeasance by both sides: Each accuses the other of being less than gentlemanly. The London Sunday Telegraph offers the best summary for the uninitiated, replete with juicy tidbits and captious remarks from some key players. AA’s Jim Wadia offers the most telling comment when he says: "Our view is that they (AC) are trying to steal an asset that does not belong to them. That asset is the AC business and the Andersen name. We are not about to give up over 80 years in hard sweat and equity and give them the Andersen name on a plate."

We’ve been saying all along that this fight is about legacy and brand, not money. Most British do not consider India an “asset” and most Indians do not claim British lineage. But there is certainly some history between the two.

Sure, there are hundreds of millions of dollars “owed” to either AC or AA depending on your allegiance. Most of the money will probably be used to pay the lawyers who have spent two-and-a-half years slogging through the proceedings. Besides, extra money in professional services is like so much spilled beer at a kegger—a waste, to be sure, but hardly remembered when everyone’s having a good time.

This whole case started when George Shaheen, AC’s ex-chief, wanted to merge AA’s consulting division with AC more than three years ago. His plan was summarily rejected. Now the SEC seems hell-bent on forcing accounting firms to sell off their consulting divisions.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if—based on SEC pressure—AC “buys” AA’s $2 billion business consulting unit as part of the settlement? Think about it. AC retains the Andersen name and adds thousands of desperately needed consultants to its ranks. AA gets the money and satisfies the government mandate. A strange scenario, perhaps, but also a neat and face-saving solution to an embarrassing situation.
Inside Consulting is written by Tom Rodenhauser as a free weekly supplement to The Rodenhauser Report. The report informs senior advisors and business executives of consulting trends and best practices. Subscription cost is $295 per year for 10 issues. Copyright 2000, Consulting Information Services, LLC. Reproduction is prohibited. Quotation with attribution is encouraged.

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