NORMAN E. AUERBACHNorman Auerbach succeeded Philip Defliese as chairman of Big Eight firm Coopers & Lybrand — they were different as day is to night.
Defliese was a brilliant audit person, while Auerbach was a savvy tax fellow. Defliese was easily elected chairman at Lybrand for three consecutive four-year terms, while Auerbach had to battle Peter Scanlon for the top post.
Defliese was trained by the legendary Robert H. Montgomery of the legendary Lybrand Ross Bros. & Montgomery. Auerbach was a self-made tax expert who conceived of “value billing” for smart tax advice.
Norman Auerbach was born in Albany, N.Y. He attended Albany High School and graduated at the top of his class. He applied to and was admitted to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to pursue a business degree. With little or no support from his family, he worked his way through four years at Michigan at whatever jobs he could obtain.
During World War II, Auerbach was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He spent much time in the South Pacific on a supply ship and after the war was stationed in Japan.
On his return to the U.S. with his BBA degree from Michigan, he joined Lybrand. Norman married Judy Genden, whom he had met at a mixer in Albany, and they settled in Long Island where they raised three sons, Roger, Gary and Richard.
Auerbach longed to study law, and while at Lybrand, he attended St. John’s Law School in the evenings and received his law degree. Auerbach and Defliese became staunch friends, and when Defliese became chairman of Lybrand, he appointed Auerbach as his executive assistant.
In 1976, the Senate Subcommittee on Reports, Accounting and Management conducted an intensive investigation of the accounting profession, which resulted in a 1,560-page report titled The Accounting Establishment.
The committee was particularly interested in the operations of the Big Eight accounting firms, and sent lengthy questionnaires to each of the firms, requesting, among other things, the salaries of the top five executives. Price Waterhouse and others submitted the information, but Auerbach, who at the time was chairman of Lybrand, refused to provide the salaries, stating that, “It’s a private matter.”
Auerbach retired as chairman of Coopers & Lybrand at the required retirement age of 62. He then joined numerous boards of directors, including American Brands, Fidelity Funds, International House of Pancakes and others.
After retirement, Norman, Judy and their three sons conferred as a family and concluded that Tucson, Ariz., was the place to settle and call home. He also formed a law firm with his sons Roger and Richard, who by then had earned law degrees.
While in Tucson, the Auerbachs purchased a 370-acre pistachio farm, one of the largest in the country — besides being tasty, pistachio nuts can be very profitable. Norman and Judy enjoyed a rewarding life in Tucson with their sons and a flock of grandchildren.
He passed away at age 73. Subsequently Judy, ill at the time, instructed her sons to sell the pistachio farm, which they did. The family sold the farm to the Greek Orthodox Church — and not for peanuts.
Norman Auerbach was rugged in appearance, personality and character. He once said to Roger, “I was not afraid to make tough decisions.”
This writer has observed the accounting scene for many years and prays that there will be more Auerbachs and Deflieses in the offing.
Eli Mason, CPA, is a past president of the New York State Society of CPAs, a past chairman of the New York State Board for Public Accountancy, and a past vice president of the American Institute of CPAs.
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