Last year Accountancy Age had no hesitation in awarding Joe Berardino the top slot in our Financial Power List. He had just admitted to congress that the firm he led, Andersen, had made mistakes in its audit of Enron.
Unfortunately we were proved right. Berardino – by virtue of the responsibilities of his job – wielded more influence over the corporate year than anyone else.
The rest is history.
Berardino presided over perhaps the biggest-ever accounting scandal and the implosion of a hundred-year-old partnership. Like his firm, Berardino’s personal fall from grace was swift and emphatic.
During his time at Andersen the firm had been involved in financial scandals involving not just Enron but Waste Management, Global Crossing, Qwest Communications, and, gulp, WorldCom.
Berardino had served only 14 months in post by the time of his resignation last march.
‘Joe Berardino has led this firm well, with integrity and courage, through the most difficult period in its history’, said Aldo Cardoso, chairman of the Andersen Worldwide Board of Partners at the time.
Berardino himself said: ‘In the wake of an unprecedented criminal indictment of the US firm, I have concluded that my continuing could become an impediment to the efforts of Volcker.’ It was former US Fed chairman Paul Volcker who was brought in in a failed attempt to secure the firm’s future.
Berardino continued: ‘While my nature is to keep fighting to protect our people and clients, the fact is that the improper shredding of documents took place on my watch – and I believe it is in the best interests of the firm for me to step down.’ Acknowledging his newly restricted career options, he reportedly added: ‘I can sell hot dogs if I have to.’
So what now for Berardino? Still in his early fifties, he’s not selling hot dogs and has surfaced on the US lecture circuit.
But it’s certainly been no gravy train. When he ventured to California last June to give a speech on reform, the San Jose Mercury News ran his photo with the caption: ‘Why would you listen to this man?’
HMRC breaches client confidentiality; and partner profits fall at EY. These stories and more discussed in Friday Afternoon Live
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