As US investigators began to unravel the facts of the case at the Texas headquarters of Enron, Christie’s future as a fully qualified accountant looked increasingly uncertain. ‘It was difficult to know what to think at the time. There was a lot of uncertainty,’ she says.
The budding tax specialist had to sit through two rounds of redundancies, watching colleagues and mentors leave as news of the scandal deepened. As reality sank in that Andersen would not survive any litigation, its Big Four rivals began circling and vying with each other for choice cuts of the disgraced firm. It wasn’t pretty.
It was Big Five rival Deloitte that went on to clinch the deal with Andersen. As part of the ‘transfer of assets’ to Deloitte, Christie, 27, was one of the lucky ones to be offered a job and promotion to tax manager.
‘There was a huge amount of uncertainty leading up to the Deloitte transaction,’ she explains. ‘I transferred as part of the wider transaction and got a more senior role, too.’ She has since completed her exams at Deloitte and is now a fully qualified accountant.
Despite talk of the chaos that would ensue following the ‘merger’, Christie praises the internal process that involved taking on 3,500 partners and staff from Andersen.
‘Integration at Deloitte was impressively swift. We were all put in two-person offices, with one person from Deloitte and one from Andersen so we would integrate better. And lots of socials were organised to help us feel at home,’ explains Christie.
Even so, it was still a case of once again going through the process of building up a new network of peers and colleagues after leaving hers behind. Although the tax practice doubled in size overnight and the cultures were very different, Christie says she took the attitude that you ‘just got on with it’.
‘It would have been great if it had worked perfectly from day one ð but we realised it would take time to sort out,’ she says.
The one obvious difference is that she has to wear a suit more often nowadays. ‘A year or two before Andersen collapsed, the dress code was slackened. I wear a suit more often than I used to,’ says Christie.
What shocked her most was ‘the realisation that such a large and successful firm could collapse so suddenly and that the actions of so few people could affect so many’.
Unlike many existing partners at the time, Christie has little criticism of the handling of the scandal at Andersen. ‘We were given a lot of information ð but we realised it would take time to sort out,’ she says.
Personally, Christie says she never associates herself with the scandal. And clearly it has had little, if any, effect on her career progression.
Indeed, the experience may well have worked to her benefit. ‘I’ve learnt in hindsight to make the most of opportunities at the time and be open to new challenges. It focused my mind on why I work as a tax consultant.’
She adds: ‘It also revealed the importance of thinking through your career, as you don’t know what’s around the corner.’
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