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Arthur Andersen: Questionable Accounting Practices

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Arthur Andersen: Questionable Accounting Practices

Arthur Andersen LLP was founded in Chicago in 1913 by Arthur Andersen and partner Clarence DeLany. After 90 years of hard work, this accounting firm we become known as one of the Big Five largest accounting firms in the United States. Andersen set standards for the accounting profession and advanced new initiatives on the strength of its then undeniable integrity. By the 1980s, standards throughout the industry fell as accountancy firms struggled to balance their commitment to audit independence against the desire to grow their consultancy practices. Andersen rapidly expanded its consultancy practice to the point where the bulk of its revenues were derived from such engagements, while audit partners were continually encouraged to seek out opportunities for consulting fees from existing audit clients. By the late-1990s, Andersen had succeeded in tripling the per-share revenues of its partners.

Arthur Andersen was constantly accused of wrong doing starting in 1998. Andersen struggled to balance the need to maintain its faithfulness to accounting standards with its clients' desire to maximize profits, particularly in the era of quarterly earnings reports. Andersen has been alleged to have been involved in the fraudulent accounting and auditing of Sunbeam Product Waste Management, Baptist Foundation of Arizona, WorldCom and Enron. On June 15, 2002, Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to its audit of Enron, resulting in the Enron scandal. Nancy Temple (Andersen Legal Dept.) and David Duncan (Lead Partner for the Enron account) were cited as the responsible managers in this scandal as they had given the order to shred relevant documents. Since the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission does not allow convicted felons to audit public companies, the firm agreed to surrender its licenses and its right to practice before the SEC on August 31, 2002, effectively ending the company's operations.

The Andersen indictment also put a spotlight on its faulty audits of other companies, most notably Sunbeam and WorldCom. The subsequent bankruptcy of WorldCom, which quickly surpassed Enron as the biggest bankruptcy in history, led to a domino effect of accounting and like corporate scandals that continue to tarnish American business practices. On May



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