European officials, concerned over the dearth of global audit firms, have compared the dwindling roster of larger practices and its implications to a pending explosion.
"Already we have a time bomb," said Dr. Alexander Schaub, director general of the European Commission's internal market division, in a recent keynote address to the European Accountants Federation, here. He noted that just 12 years ago, the global lineup consisted of the Big Eight. Then a series of consolidations resulted in the Big Five, which shortly became the Big Four in 2002 when Andersen imploded following the Enron scandal.
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