PracticeAccounting FirmsAndersen UK to fend for itself

Andersen UK to fend for itself

The UK office of under-siege Andersen could be left to fend for itself if its worldwide partnership were broken up - a prospect which grew more likely this week after it emerged Big Five rivals Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young were both interested in rescuing the firm.

Although exact details of discussions were unknown, with more than one firm involved in discussions, the prospect of different practices or national offices being split off has become a serious option for the firm.

Andersen was said to be considering filing for ‘Chapter 11’ insolvency protection in the US, a route as yet untested for limited liability partnerships.

A massive hurdle to a merger or takeover would centre on how a rescuer could protect itself from any potential legal claims against Andersen, suggesting the US operation could be separated from the remainder of the global operation.

Spokespeople for E&Y and Andersen said they would not comment on speculation, while Deloittes issued a statement saying it was currently going through a ‘scenario planning exercise’.

However, a source at Andersen said the merger speculation was ‘meaty’.

There have been several precedents where firms have merged with different partnerships in separate countries. When Deloitte Haskins & Sells merged with Coopers & Lybrand in the UK, the rest of its international network teamed up with Touche Ross, later to become known as Deloitte & Touche.

On Monday, Paul Volker, hired by Andersen to review its business, said the firm’s audit arm should be separated from its consultancy practice.

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