Super-regional firm Plante & Moran has expanded its services and presence in the Chicagoland area with the addition of Wetmore & Associates, a boutique firm specializing in benefit plan audits.

The merger, effective May 1, marks Plante & Moran's second deal in the Chicago market. The firm entered the Windy City last year with the merger of regional firm Gleeson, Sklar, Sawyers & Cumpata.

Wetmore & Associates adds annual revenues of $700,000, one partner, Bill Wetmore, and three professionals. The firm specializes in employee benefit plan audits for small to mid-sized companies and also offers accounting, tax and audit services and strategic planning for businesses and consumers.

Plante & Moran has revenue of roughly $210 million, 19 offices, 204 partners and a total staff of about 1,450.

P&M Chicagoland managing partner George Cumpata said the firm is seeing a lot of activity in the retirement plan audit area, driven in part by Sarbanes-Oxley.

"A lot of larger publicly traded companies and middle market companies now have one firm doing their audit and another firm doing the audit for their retirement plan, so we're seeing a lot of opportunities in that area," Cumpata told WebCPA. In addition, he noted that some of the Big Four and other large firms have decided to stop doing pension plan audits because of independence issues, creating further opportunities for the firm, which recently picked up an engagement doing the audit for all of Ford Motor Co.'s pension plans.

Cumpata said retirement plan audits currently account for 2 percent to 3 percent of the firm's practice, "and we see it continuing to grow at a fairly rapid pace."

The two firms had a relationship via Plante's alliance program, under which it partnered with smaller firms that needed additional resources. In addition, Cumpata noted that Bill Wetmore "is very active with the Illinois CPA Society, and has chaired its benefit plan committee, so he's very well known in this arena."

Wetmore and his staff will move into an existing P&M office, in either Elgin or Chicago.

The deal marks Plante's second merger this year. Back in March, P&M announced that it would merge in Flint, Mich.-based BKR Dupuis & Ryden, adding seven partners, 60 staff and $7.5 million in revenue, and closing the gap in the firm's geographic footprint in mid-Michigan.

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