Five Arthur Andersen managers and consultants have defected to a financial planning team at a northern law firm – a move, say Big Five multidisciplinary campaigners, that demonstrates the need for mergers between legal and accountancy firms.
News of the defection comes as the UK Law Society prepares to publish a consultation paper on MDPs this autumn.
If the Society lifts the current restrictions on accountants and lawyers sharing fees and merging services, MDPs could come into force by the end of next year.
The newly formed team of financial planning specialists at Dickinson Dees, all from Arthur Andersen’s northern practice, will be led by David Dale, who ran Andersens’ financial planning group.
The team will offer independent financial advice on a broad range of subjects including investment management, tax and pension advice.
George Lyall, head of Dickinson Dees private client services group, said: ‘Clients are increasingly looking for advice which is co-ordinated and integrated.’
In July, around two-thirds of solicitors called for the ban on MDPs to be lifted in a Law Society vote. The Big Five firms have also thrown their weight behind the campaign.
But critics of MDPs argue that they raise huge conflicts of interest with auditors and solicitors offering separate legal and financial advice to the same company.
Peter Wyman, partner at PwC, said the defection from Andersens showed how traditional barriers between accountancy and law firms were breaking down.
‘The traditional arguments about MDPs not being in the public interest don’t stand up,’ he said. ‘The Law Society has stringent rules on conflict of interest and impartiality, as does any company. Most of the Big Five firms want to see multidisciplinary practices.’
Wyman added that while most of the Big Five back the case for MDPs, the mid-tier firms appeared to be more divided over the issue.
Andersens officials were not available for comment.
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