Andersen Loses Biggest Banking Client, SunTrust

The board of directors of SunTrust Banks, Inc. voted this week to end its 60-year-old relationship with Big Five firm Andersen and has agreed to hire PricewaterhouseCoopers to perform the company's audit work in the future.

The bank claims its decision had nothing to do with Andersen's recent problems stemming from its controversial Enron audit. SunTrust was Andersen's largest banking client, responsible for more than $3 million in annual fees.

SunTrust declined to say why it was changing auditors, noting that it was a regular process to put various jobs, including the company's audit, out for bid. Both Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers submitted bids for the job last spring.

"When you start to lose your prestige clients, there comes a point when it stops being just five clients leaving and becomes five clients starting a tidal wave," said Jonathan Hamilton, editor of Public Accounting Report. "It's a huge blow when the biggest client in an industry is lopped off."

Patrick Dorton, an Andersen spokesman, commented that the accounting firm regrets the loss of any client and declined to discuss details of the SunTrust decision.

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