Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed and the Fall of Arthur Andersen
||List Price: $24.95
Amazon.com Price: $17.47
- Media: Hardcover
Publisher: Broadway Books (04 March, 2003)
- Average Customer Review:
Based on 22 reviews.
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 4,910
Buyer Beware: Toffler was not an Andersen Insider
I just completed this book and I am not impressed. Toffler adds few insights that are not tainted by her obvious disdain for everything (and everyone) Andersen. She spent only 4 years in the firm and was never in any significant leadership role. There are literally thousands of former Andersen partners & employees that could have provided better insight.
This book comes off as very self-serving, a trend that comes to a head on about page 200 as Toffler describes how if only management had listened, she could have saved the day. It is obvious Toffler never earned the respect of her peers. This is not surprising - when I read the decription of the work she did prior to Andersen, I equated it to a senior level role at a Big 5 firm (conducting interviews, documenting issues, etc.). Clearly Toffler was in way over her head as a Big 5 partner.
What she does not mention is that, after being hired as a national partner, she fails to make a name for herself or the consulting service she led. I worked in the same division (BRCA) as Toffler for nearly all of her AA career and never once heard her name or even of her group - she was not exactly a trailblazer. Further, it appears that she left AA after 4 years as a national partner (typically only 2 years are spent at that level) after growing her service line to a total of 8 professionals - a group too small to support Toffler's salary. No wonder she felt intense pressure to sell, though for all her complaining about the pressure and high fees, she never suggests that her salary and lack of success might have caused the pressure, at least in part.
Although interesting at times, this book is not written by a true Andersen insider and better insights were available in the Wall Street Journal when this story was news.
A Book I Couldn't Put Down
I have a confession to make. I'm one of those corporate assasins, a certified public accountant, albeit one who never worked for Arthur Andersen. And, I am ashamed of my profession. If even part of the material in this book is true, and I have every reason to suspect that most of it is true, Arthur Andersen deserved to be shut down. I suspect some of the other 'Final Four' firms deserve similar treatment too.
When I got this book, I opened it expecting to read just a chapter or two. I could not put it down. Barbara Ley Toffler's observations about the way things really work at the large public accounting firms are exactly the same impressions I got as a "Big 8" senior manager over 20 years ago.
I found one particular story very telling. She describes an educational meeting where she asks the managers in attendance where they felt their principal responsibilities lay while performing an audit. Was it to the public, government, the firm, fellow team members, or to the partner on the engagement? The managers overwhelmingly responded that their principal responsibilities lay with pleasing the partner. That was what was so sick about working for a national firm. The game being played had nothing to do with serving the public, or particularly the client either. It was all about serving that boss down the hall, the partner. Make him happy and your career was smooth. Make him angry and you soon would be looking for another job.
Practicing a profession isn't just all about making money. Apparently, as I suspected, too many partners at Arthur Andersen and probably many others at other national firms don't understand this any more. One particular reviewer gave this book a single star. I suspect that reviewer is actually a former Arthur Andersen android who delusionally thinks that their firm got the shaft unjustly.
This book would have been a lot stronger if the author had not annointed herself as a hero. After all, she did spend four years running on the hamster wheel like all the others. I suspect that she was actually fired for "failure to make her numbers." If she had told us more about her own failings, I would have respected her more. I suspect the real heros were those who were hired in from outside who left soon thereafter when they realized that they had really signed on to a soul destroying commercial enterprise.
Ex Andersen Androids - A must Read
I found this book a compelling and interesting view into the daily workings of this once great firm. I worked for Andersen for neary 8 years and was not surprised by much in this book. Throughout my tenure at Andersen, I was witness to many of the same practices as well as many other unethical and unprofessional behaviors. What became glaringly apparent to me early on in my career is that as long as you have a powerful partner on your side, you can pretty much get away with anything (overbilling, expense fraud, selling unnecessary services, manipulating time reporting to meet goals, sexual harassment, etc.). Ms. Tofflers' representation of the culture, values and mission of this once fine organization are true and accurate (it's all about money!!). Unfortunately, Mr. Andersen's vision was bastardized by greed and hunger for power. Great book and a must read for all accounting professionals aligned with the remaing "final four".
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