THE BIG EIGHT by Mark Stevens


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No college gridiron lore in the offing: this is a profile of the elite octet that audits as well as counsels major corporations, government agencies, and, not infrequently, labor organizations. By name: Peat, Marwick, Michell; Coopers & Lybrand; Price Waterhouse (of ""the-envelope-please"" fame at Oscar time); Arthur Anderson; Deloitte Haskins & Sells; Arthur Young; Ernst & Whinney; and Touche Ross. Stevens, a one-time wire-service reporter and sometime-author (of books on Bloomingdale's and on modeling), is working the same territory as Briloff in last year's The Truth about Corporate Accounting. But, while Briloff focused on making CPAs responsible for the accuracy and fairness of corporate financial reports, Stevens addresses the somewhat broader issue of conflict of interest. In particular, he is concerned that Big Eight firms, which verify the bookkeeping of 90 percent of the companies whose shares are listed on the NYSE, may be unduly responsive to the disclosure needs of clients that represent the principal outlet for such lucrative ancillary services as management and tax consulting. Further, Stevens questions the propriety of, for example, a firm like Deloitte Haskins & Sells, which has an extensive banking practice, undertaking an assignment from the Comptroller of the Currency, which had a significant effect on the industry's regulatory environment. Stevens stops well short of advocating federal control; but the points he raises are germane and, given the Reagan Administration's preference for a laissez-faire marketplace, well worth pondering. Beyond the major themes, he offers an instructive look at how Big Eight firms operate--from their hard-sell recruitment pitches on college campuses and in-house jockeying for partnerships to the industry's closed-ranks stand against critics. Enlightening for all concerned.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1981
Publisher: Macmillan