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Accounting Firm Losing Business Because of Enron Connection - 2002-01-29

One of the largest accounting firms in the United States says it has lost business because of its association with the collapsed energy trading company Enron. But, the head of the Chicago-based firm Andersen told a news conference his company will survive.

Andersen was fired as Enron's auditor a couple of weeks ago, although Andersen officials say their relationship with the failed energy trading company ended when Enron filed for bankruptcy protection in December. The federal government and at least eight congressional committees in Washington are investigating both firms.

At a news conference at the company's Chicago headquarters Monday, Andersen Chief Executive Officer Joseph Berardino said the collapse of Enron is a tragedy, but is not the accounting firm's fault. He says the Andersen workers who shredded Enron documents in Houston, Texas, were acting on their own. "What was done was not in keeping with the values and heritage of this firm. It was wrong. There is no other word for it," syas. Mr. Berardina. " But, 85,000 people did not work on the Enron engagement, 85,000 people did not destroy documents and 85,000 people did not encourage anyone to destroy those documents."

Andersen has 85,000 workers worldwide, including more than five-thousand at the company headquarters in Chicago. Mr. Berardino says the association with Enron has hurt Andersen somewhat, but he does not expect the firm to need to seek a merger with another accounting firm to stay alive.

Mr. Berardino says Andersen has hired a law firm to interview its workers involved with Enron, and that any wrongdoing will be punished. He says Andersen is not trying to cover up its workers' activities at Enron and that the energy company's failure was its own fault. "People need to focus more on the fact that the business failed because this management made investments and those investments did not work out," he says. "Accounting reflects the economics of those business judgements, not the other way around."

Enron workers lost millions of dollars in retirement savings when the value of their company's stock plummeted last year. In Houston Monday, former Enron employees filed a class-action lawsuit, naming Andersen among the defendants.