Dispute over Arthur Andersen name heats up
The Paris-based firm that recently announced the relaunch of a new Arthur Andersen network of accounting firms is fighting back against Andersen Tax, as both entities claim to hold the rights to the Andersen name, with the head of the new Andersen accusing its rival of “ego, arrogance, lies and greed.”
Last week, the new Arthur Andersen announced it had reconstituted the former Big Five firm in 16 countries, including the U.S. (see Firms vie over rights to Arthur Andersen name). The original Arthur Andersen collapsed in the wake of high-profile accounting scandals at several of its clients, including Enron and WorldCom, in the early 2000s. In 2014, a group of former Andersen partners resurrected the Andersen name, renaming a firm they had founded in 2002, WTAS, as Andersen Tax (see WTAS revives Arthur Andersen name as Andersen Tax). Andersen Tax is now operating in 58 locations around the world.
A French company, however, announced in 2015 that it was relaunching the brand and is now disputing Andersen Tax’s rights to the name, claiming it holds the trademark.
“Because of the misleading, defamatory, denigrating and outrageous statements recently made by Andersen Tax LLC to the media and to our clients and contacts, we have no other choice than respond publicly and in the strongest terms,” Arthur Andersen global managing partner Stéphane Laffont-Réveilhac said in a statement Monday. “Once again, we affirm that we are the sole owners of the worldwide rights on the Arthur Andersen and Andersen brands, slogans and logos. Public databases, in the US and throughout the world, confirm our rights on a global level. Furthermore, in 2015, Andersen Tax LLC contacted us in order to buy back our rights. Today, we are very proud to have nothing to do with Andersen Tax LLC and their outdated practices. Such behavior is clearly contrary to the Arthur Andersen values and shows that these individuals on the rope are panicked and unscrupulous. They are blinded by their ego, arrogance, lies and greed.”
Laffont-Réveilhac insisted his firm had the rights to the name. “Since 2013, we have been building a serious and honest project, with all the necessary guarantees, especially on the legal and ethical levels,” he added. “We are aware of being responsible towards the Alumni, for whom we have the utmost respect, and the historical values of the network. Many former Partners have already joined our network and are supporting us. During our press conference, which will be held in New York on March 15th 2017, we will answer all questions. We are not afraid: our rights are guaranteed, our behavior is humble and our ethics is intransigent. Arthur Andersen deserves our struggle. Arthur Andersen is coming back, stronger than ever.”
He then added a reference to the original Andersen’s old motto, appending at the end of his statement: “Think Straight. Talk Straight.”
Andersen Tax CEO Mark Vorsatz told Accounting Today last week that his firm has filed an action against the Paris-based Arthur Andersen in France. “They are not affiliated and do not have any rights to the name,” said Andersen Tax CEO Mark Vorsatz in an email last Thursday. “We purchased the rights to the Andersen brand in the U.S. and worldwide and have filed trademarks in over 50 jurisdictions. We have filed an action against them in France to require that they cease and desist use of the name. Also, to the best of our knowledge, they have no viable business in any locations.”
Reached on Monday, Vorsatz said that Laffont-Réveilhac had sent him a series of emails and asked for $87 million. "Of course we declined," he added. He eventually cut off contact with Laffont-Réveilhac. "They talk about culture, but they never worked at the firm," he said. He noted that his firm has many former Andersen people working there, including several of the former top executives and a descendant of the original Arthur Andersen. They also set up an Andersen Hall of Fame. and he even has a set of double doors from Arthur Andersen's old offices in his garage. "In summary, we're going to enforce our legal rights," said Vorsatz.
Andersen Tax’s general counsel, Oscar Alcantara, said his firm is still deciding on how it will respond.
A spokesperson for the new Arthur Andersen sent Accounting Today two documents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office claiming to show it holds the trademark on the name. “I would also like to share the attached documents from the USPTO, this confirms that our organization (Quatre Juillet Maison Blanche, SAS) has the only live Arthur Andersen trademark in the United States,” said Samantha Kemp.
She encouraged Accounting Today to visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to search for Arthur Andersen.
While the documents can be found on the site, Alcantara of Andersen Tax pointed out that the database also indicates the USPTO refused to grant the trademarks to the new Arthur Andersen, in part because of objections filed by Andersen Tax. “I think the public records of the PTO speak for themselves,” he said.
Kemp of Arthur Andersen disputed that characterization. “That statement by Andersen Tax is false,” she said. “Please check the trademark search on the USPTO website; you will notice that under LIVE/DEAD Indicator that our status is LIVE. If our application was refused our Trademark status would not be LIVE.”