If you’ve ever worked at a Big 4 firm, you’re aware that when big news hits the MSM, A) it’s never good and B) there is typically some sort of communication from management reiterating the firm’s position on the matter, everything is cool, thanks for your hard work, etc. etc.
With last week’s revelation of the bankruptcy examiner’s report on Lehman Brothers, E&Y seems to be following this protocol as it relates to the troops on the ground. As you would expect, leadership is keeping their heads about this while in the background in-house counsel is likely engaged in all-night smoky room strategy sessions.
We checked in with a few of our Ernst & Young sources to get an idea of what people were thinking and so far, there doesn’t sound like there are any signs of panic (yet!).
From one source:
Overall reaction from what I gathered is pretty muted. We did get a call from some of the higher-ups saying that we reviewed our work and that we feel that our audit was completely adequate and that Lehman’s failure was nothing more than the same systemic failure of two of the other major banks and that we plan to defend ourselves vigorously. Presumably, the examiner’s report really didn’t give any ah-ha moments….
[I]s there a possibility of a payout at some point? It’s possible. Are we worried that we’re the next Arthur Andersen? I don’t think so.
So at least on the surface, E&Y leadership is communicating that what came out in the report wasn’t surprising and that the defense of the firm’s position will be, as usual, vigorous.
That doesn’t of course stop the speculation:
I heard from a technical guy there was some concern because they didn’t issue a going concern opinion [for the previous audit].
And as you might expect, “I heard that [the firm] helped cook the books and is deep shit,” with the book cooking being arguable but pretty hard to prove and the “deep shit” aspect being a given.
Some Ernst & Young partners are probably losing sleep just thinking about the potential liability involved here but eventually they’ll get over it (until something else comes up).
No partner worth their salt got admitted to the partnership focusing on the downside. The problem is that when people use consistently use words like “deceptive” and “misleading” to describe Lehman’s accounting this reflects poorly on the firm since they were comfortable with the treatment.
And because it’s still busy season for a lot of people, they are focused on the shitstorm that currently surrounds them, not one that will likely drag on for years after they’ve left the firm (voluntarily or otherwise).
Anyone with more insight or thoughts on the matter, get in touch with us and we’ll keep you updated on the chatter inside E&Y.