|Troubled Accountants Arthur Andersen is keeping poker faced about the future of its Las Vegas office, its local clients and employees.|
If, as many in the industry believe, the 89 year old company should fail, rivals Deloitte & Touche LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) seem the two most likely candidates to take on Andersen's lucrative gaming clients, as well as many of its Nevada employees.
Chicago-based Andersen concluded talks last Thursday with the US Justice Department that could have settled criminal charges stemming from Andersen's alleged wrongdoings on behalf of its former client Enron Corp. The government is now preparing for a criminal trial beginning May 6.
Many experts reckon that the failure to reach a settlement may be the end of the line for Andersen. But Steve Comer, managing partner of Andersen’s Las Vegas office, said he would not speculate on the company’s future because of the rapidly changing circumstances.
'There are so many things up in the air,' Comer said. 'I would hope that we'd have a good idea about what's going on in a week or so, but right now I really don't want to talk about it. ... The situation is so fluid, but we're trying to work through it.'
No matter what, Andersen’s dominant position as supplier of auditing services to the gaming industry seems to have been dealt a major blow after an order by New Jersey gaming regulators last month that casino firms operating in that state had to sever ties with the firm. Covered by this order are Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and MGM MIRAGE.
On April 4 Andersen and Deloitte announced an agreement that allowed for 'a significant number' of Andersen's U.S. tax partners and tax professionals to join Deloitte & Touche as early as April 30.
Spokeswoman Deborah Harrington could not comment on whether any Las Vegas-area employees would be affected by the proposed exchange with Andersen.
Still, Harrington added that Deloitte has already taken on 14 former Andersen clients and will evaluate the addition of others should they become available.
'We're always competing with the other firms for clients and we'll continue to do that,' said Harrington, whose company handles auditing duties for Park Place Entertainment Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp.
David Nestor, a New York-based spokesman for PWC, said that his company would be interested in taking on ex-Andersen employees and clients, although he could not comment specifically on his company's intentions in Nevada.
'If they fit with our strategies and people, we're interested in talking to Andersen's clients and employees in specific areas,' Nestor said.