Indictment worsens Andersen PR crisis

CHICAGO: Andersen's indictment on criminal charges by the Department of Justice has had a "dramatic, detrimental impact,

CHICAGO: Andersen's indictment on criminal charges by the Department of Justice has had a "dramatic, detrimental impact,

on its PR strategy, according to the accounting firm's PR consultant Charlie Leonard.

Andersen's in-house and external PR teams have been coping with the media and client fallout following the indictment, connected to the destruction of Enron-related documents surrounding that company's bankruptcy.

Last week, Andersen CEO Joe Berardino resigned, saying that his continuing "could become an impediment to the efforts of former US Fed chairman Paul Volcker (chairman of the Andersen Independent Oversight Board), and many others to save the US firm."

"The problem with the indictment is that the perception is of guilt, not of innocence before guilt,

said Leonard, a partner with Chlopak Leonard Schechter & Associates, the firm retained by Andersen.

"That has been the perception on the part of clients, and on the part of the media pack that has been chasing the story and is more consumed with the scandal than the substance,

he continued. Andersen has lost at least 70 clients since the Enron scandal broke.

Leonard said he is taking about 100 media calls a day, and spends most of his time correcting rumors.

In the meantime, Andersen employees have been seen engaging in demonstrations in cities across the country to show their support for the company.

Andersen spokesman Patrick Dorton said that the rallies have been instigated by the employees themselves. "This is much less a firm strategy and much more a spontaneous outpouring at the grassroots level of innocent people's feelings about the Justice Department's indictment,

Dorton said.

He added that employees have been writing letters to members of Congress and speaking to the media, as well as attending public rallies. "There is a lot of emotion about 28,000 people - who do good work every day - being tarred by the actions of a few,

he said.

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