Why are out-of-towners teeming into Manhattan for the holidays this year? It could be the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping along Fifth Avenue, take in a matinee at Radio City Music Hall, or catch a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden... But, no, the hottest tickets in town this holiday season are to the many booming post-Enron conferences.
The price tags of these events range from free to $2,000 per attendee. Many are held at posh hotels and clubs. The main attraction is typically a team of attorneys and forensic CPAs who provide insights and advice into the hows and whys of well-publicized accounting scandals at major corporations, such as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco.
Among the best places to go and be seen around town:
- The Yale Club was the site of a recent financial fraud conference hosted by Kroll Inc. and called "Crouching Profits, Hidden Debts." Admission was free.
- The Waldorf-Astoria was recently the site of a $2,250 per-person conference sponsored by Board Member Inc. The theme was “Fighting Shareholder Lawsuits," and the agenda was geared toward corporations that want to beef up legal defenses against angry shareholders. Workshops included such topics as "How to Function Safely ... and Avoid Jail!" and "Making Your Company Bulletproof: Steps You Can Take Before the Suit is Filed."
- The Waldorf is also proving a popular site for troubled companies' post-mortems. Isaac Lustgarten, a partner at Manhattan law firm Arnold & Porter, recently spoke to a standing-room-only crowd on "Sarbanes-Oxley: The Impact on Investment Banks, Broker Dealers & Asset Managers." He began his talk about "Insider Transactions and Profiteering" with a clip of the song "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." He says his lecture is in so much demand he may soon give it in Los Angeles, too.
With features like these, the conferences are a sell-out, and many out-of-towners say the programs provide all the entertainment they need on a trip to New York.