Dispute over Arthur Andersen legacy continues

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The international dispute over the rights to the Arthur Andersen name continues, with one claimant announcing expansion plans in the Americas, as former Andersen managing partners and a relative of the original firm founder weighed in.

The dispute erupted earlier this month when a Paris-based firm calling itself Arthur Andersen announced it had reconstituted the network with 26 offices in 16 countries, including four locations in the United States (see Firms vie over rights to Arthur Andersen name). The firm originated from a company called Quatre Juillet Maison Blanche, which translates into “Fourth of July White House” in French. Stéphane Laffont-Réveilhac, who called himself global managing partner of Arthur Andersen, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post.

However, his claims were challenged by Andersen Tax, a firm founded by a group of former Andersen partners in 2002 after the original firm collapsed in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals. Andersen Tax was originally called WTAS (short for Wealth and Tax Advisory Services USA Inc.) and adopted the Andersen name in 2014. It has grown to 19 locations in the U.S., 10 in Latin America, 22 in the European Union and four affiliates in Canada. Andersen Tax also has plans for further expansion in the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, and has begun an educational program in partnership with the University of San Francisco.

Before renaming WTAS in 2014, Andersen Tax CEO Mark Vorsatz acquired trademarks and copyrights from Arthur Andersen LLP and Andersen Worldwide. After the French company announced it too would relaunch the Andersen firm, Andersen Tax challenged the new entity’s applications for trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and filed an action last October in Paris to stop the new Arthur Andersen from infringing its trademarks. The dispute has intensified between the two firms, with Laffont-Réveilhac accusing his rival of “ego, arrogance, lies and greed” (see Dispute over Arthur Andersen name heats up).

The new Arthur Andersen told Accounting Today earlier this month it planned to hold a press conference on March 15 in New York where its lawyer would answer questions about the dispute. “Mr. Vorsatz tells lies and we will share evidence at the press conference,” Laffont-Réveilhac said in a statement emailed to Accounting Today by spokesperson Samantha Kemp (see Former Arthur Andersen chiefs support Andersen Tax in dispute over Andersen name).

Kemp said the firm would also provide a press kit with quotes from Arthur Andersen alumni, from the associate to senior partner level, who worked at Arthur Andersen offices all across the world and have now rejoined Arthur Andersen. However, a few days later Kemp said the press conference had been postponed and a press release would be issued instead. The press release was never sent and Kemp has not responded to further requests for comment, although Laffont-Réveilhac did post an announcement last week, again on LinkedIn, on the day the press conference was scheduled. In it, he announced plans for integrating new member firms in the Americas. They include the four locations in the United States, in New York, Houston, Chicago, and Monterey, California, along with four locations in Brazil.

“We are very excited and dedicated with our team of 600 professionals to re-launch Arthur Andersen in the Americas,” said a joint statement from South America managing partner Vitor Saldanha and North America managing partner Imad Hala. “To us, Arthur Andersen should have its face lifted and teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etching of experience and the firm lines of its character.”

The announcement said the firm’s strategy for redevelopment of its network in North, Central, and South America would “include organic development through the integration of Arthur Andersen alumni owned firms as well as other top tier organizations that will strengthen the brands long-term value and continue to revive the culture of this historic firm. Currently, Arthur Andersen partners in North & South America are in discussions with several medium sized accountancies and consultancies to integrate into Arthur Andersen.”

The latest announcement did not include any of the promised statements of support from alumni of the original Arthur Andersen.

The Andersen legacy

Meanwhile, Kristen Andersen, a great-granddaughter of the original Arthur Andersen, is backing the Andersen Tax contingent, joined by former Andersen managing partners and chief executives Lawrence A. Weinbach and Duane Kullberg.

“My relationship was a very personal one,” she said in an interview last week with Accounting Today. “My father was Arthur Andersen III and my brother is the fourth. I wish Mark [Vorsatz] all the luck in the world. The partners embody all those values. The mantra of the firm was to ‘think straight, talk straight.’ Arthur Andersen got that from his Norwegian mother. He was a man of remarkable strength.”

She noted that the firm began in 1913 and believes it collapsed in the early 2000s because of political pressures during the George W. Bush administration. “It folded like a house of cards,” she said.

“I have very strong personal feelings,” she admitted. She thinks the demise of the firm led to the death of her father. “It literally killed my dad,” she said. “He was a partner with the firm. He was the treasurer. I was the historian.”

She has preserved correspondence covering the history of the firm, along with photos of her ancestors and other Arthur Andersen memorabilia. “I’ve got boxes and boxes of correspondence,” she said. “It was like a history lesson.”

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