Markets Did Not Reward Decision to 'Dump Andersen'

The capital markets have been punishing companies for any whiff of accounting shenanigans. They have also been rewarding companies for squeaky clean financial reporting. But, so far, there is scant evidence of any sort of reward for the companies that switched auditors after the Department of Justice indicted Arthur Andersen on charges of obstructing justice.

The Wall Street Journal selected the "measurements that arguably present the best comparisons between how Andersen ex-clients have performed versus other stocks." Looking at the performance of Andersen's former clients, the Journal concludes, "it's hard to see that they've gotten any 'dump-Andersen premium.' They may even have underperformed the broader market a bit."

The market comparisons:

  • According to data gathered by AccountingWEB, over 600 publicly traded companies left Andersen since the beginning of the year. Of these, the Journal calculates that an estimated 366 companies fired Andersen between its March 14 indictment and mid-May. Of the 366 companies, only 186 (51%)outperformed the S&P on a strict apples-to-apples basis. That is considerably lower than the overall average of 65% of companies who have outperformed the index over the past few months.

  • According to Charlie Reinhard, senior U.S. investment strategist for Lehman Brothers, there is evidence that the largest Andersen clients, the 66 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 who dropped Andersen through mid-May, slightly underperformed the S&P from the day before they announced they were dropping Andersen to the day after - the period when any effect on a company's stock from firing Andersen theoretically should be at its height.

Andersen spokesman Patrick Dorton reportedly told the Journal he wasn't surprised that companies that have dismissed Andersen don't seem to have derived a significant benefit to their stocks from the move. Clients have dropped Andersen because of negative publicity, "not because of the quality of services they were getting," Mr. Dorton said. (Shares of 'Dump Andersen' Firms Haven't Necessarily Gotten Boosts, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2002)

-Rosemary Schlank

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