Throughout the week, I heard the phrase "death penalty" applied more frequently to Andersen as a result of its indictment on obstruction of justice charges than I did in reference to the psychotic Houston mother who tragically drowned her five children.
After all, there's no one who could sanely argue that Andersen isn't running barefoot through a crowded cow pasture in terms of survival. Its audit clients are dropping them faster than I did physics and statistics classes in college, and resumes from Andersen employees have flooded virtually every career Internet portal. Some of its Big Five competitors have kicked the proverbial tires in terms of a possible merger, but thus far no one has asked for the keys. And with the crippling liability issues squarely in Andersen's headlights, could you blame them?
But to me the saddest thing in this whole debacle is that the convicted Houston mother has actually received more support than Andersen. In fact, some women's groups and other human rights organizations have, incredulously, tried to portray Andrea Yates as "persecuted." Sadly, the Yates case is not unique. Don't get me started on the idiots who crusade for convicted cop killers like Mumia Abu Jamal.
But, as a colleague of mine is prone to say, I digress.
Andersen obviously has to shoulder much of the blame for the Enron fiasco even though it appears it was perpetrated by a select few. Had they tried or even attempted to enact some type of auditing reform when past financial restatements and accounting irregularities surfaced such as in the case of Waste Management, the Department of Justice would not be holding them up as poster children for white collar fraud.
Refusing to plead guilty and claiming that the DOJ indictment was "a gross abuse of government power" probably won't win them any future friends on Capitol Hill either - assuming of course they do have a future.
They've asked for a speedy trial and would probably get one.
And of course, the folks at 1211 Avenue of the Americas save for a two-sentence statement on how the allegations still remain to be proved, have not exactly rushed to Andersen's defense. They did however state that the indictment was "unprecedented in the 110-year history of accounting profession."
They also found the time recently to issue an internal press advisory to directors of the various state societies in order to stress that Andersen was still part of the institute (as least as long as they keep paying dues) just no longer a member of the Big Five/AICPA lobbying group.
But then, none of Andersen's Big Five competitors have stepped up either, except possibly to poach audit and/or consulting clients.
In retrospect, perhaps Andersen's crimes weren't severe enough to warrant more support.
With friends like these...
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