A new global firm calling itself Arthur Andersen has fired back at Andersen Tax officials who say the once-iconic brand name is actually theirs.
Following a LinkedIn announcement last week that Arthur Andersen is being “reconstituted” in 16 countries, San Francisco-based Andersen Tax (FY15 net revenue of $197 million) objected to the use of the name, which they said has been rightfully theirs to use since 2014.
Reaction was swift. “Because of the misleading, defamatory, denigrating and outrageous statements recently made by Andersen Tax to the media and to our clients and contacts, we have no other choice than respond publicly and in the strongest terms,” read a LinkedIn post by French businessman Stéphane Laffont-Réveilhac, who identified himself as global managing partner of Arthur Andersen. He contended, “We are the sole owners of the worldwide rights on the Arthur Andersen and Andersen brands, slogans and logos.”
He went on to say that Arthur Andersen professionals are proud to have nothing to do with Andersen Tax. “Such behavior is clearly contrary to the Arthur Andersen values and shows that these individuals on the rope are panicked and unscrupulous. They are blinded by their ego, arrogance, lies and greed.”
Arthur Andersen, once a Big 5 firm with a sterling reputation, surrendered its license to practice as a CPA firm in 2002 after it was found guilty to criminal charges relating to audits of the energy giant Enron. Former partners founded Wealth & Tax Advisory Services (WTAS), and had reportedly transitioned 92% of its clients to the new firm, added seven new managing directors and increased its client base by 20% in the first year.
In 2014, WTAS announced that it had acquired the legal rights to use the Andersen name and changed WTAS to Andersen Tax, which has about 1,000 employees in 19 U.S. cities and a presence abroad.
On March 1 though, Laffont-Réveilhac wrote, “Arthur Andersen is reconstituted, with 26 offices on five continents and in 16 countries. Arthur Andersen encompasses offices in the following countries and states: United States of America (Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco), Europe (Cyprus, France, Greece), India, Brazil, the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar), Egypt, Indonesia and Nepal.”
He said that more than 200 firms had applied to become affiliates since last June. “In each country, we are setting up an inter-professional member firm with high-quality players who are fully up to meeting the current needs of clients with a focus on a vision of the future, while maintaining the spirit and historical values of our historic firm founded in 1913 in Chicago,” Laffont-Réveilhac said in a statement that day.
“They are not affiliated and do not have any rights to the name,” Andersen Tax CEO Mark Vorsatz said in a March 2 email, Accounting Today reported. “We purchased the rights to the Andersen brand in the U.S. and worldwide and have filed trademarks in over 50 jurisdictions. We have filed an action against them in France to require that they cease and desist use of the name. Also, to the best of our knowledge, they have no viable business in any locations.”
Andersen Tax’s in-house counsel, Oscar Alcantara, said his firm filed an action in Paris last October against the group calling itself Arthur Andersen for trademark infringement and to cancel any other filings by them, Accounting Today reported. Response is due March 17.
Andersen Tax officials say their firm represents the Arthur Andersen name and legacy better than the other firm, which they say has only one firm alumna.
“On our side of the table what we have is a large group of people who truly represent the legacy of Arthur Andersen, individuals who had been with the organization for decades and who truly bear the goodwill of that culture,” Alcantara said. Twenty-three former partners formed WTAS in 2002.
Arthur Andersen says it will hold a press conference in New York March 15 to answer questions.