FDs’ confidence in Andersen under threat

In mid-February 2002, we emailed a short questionnaire to 3,000 subscribers – and almost 800 replied. We also invited comments from survey participants and more than 175 obliged.

Amongst the findings more than 40% of respondents would be prepared to give Andersen the benefit of the doubt were they to put their audit out to tender. They did not consider that the Enron scandal would seriously affect their decision as to whether to include Andersen on a short-list.

While these results seemed fairly good bedrock for Andersen to rebuild its reputation with UK business, charges of shredding Enron documents in the UK as well as in the US, compounded by a decision by Mayflower, the UK manufacturing company, to fire Andersen as auditors yesterday, could spell disaster for the auditor’s UK operation.

Furthermore, more than three-quarters of Financial Directorrespondents expected Andersen corporate clients here and in the US to seriously consider switching firms – an opinion that may well gain credence.

In the FTSE-100 alone, according to Financial Director’s FTSE-100 Audit Fees survey, Andersen stands to lose £9m in audit fees and £28m in non-audit fees from its eight clients if they abandon the auditor.

Our sister title Accountancy Age estimates that Andersen has total UK fee income of almost £620m, more than three times the fee income of the next largest accountancy firm, BDO Stoy Hayward.

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