Andersen calls for PR help as Enron allegations grow

CHICAGO: Andersen has surrounded itself with a coterie of

communications firms as it has become increasingly implicated in the

Enron collapse.

Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, Griffin Johnson Dover &

Stewart, and Ketchum, its PR agency of record, are all working with the


Andersen was both auditor and consultant to the energy broker, which

filed the largest bankruptcy in US history last December. That dual role

has come under scrutiny as a possible conflict of interest, prompting

questions about practices across the accounting industry.

David Tabolt, a partner with Andersen, has been the firm's primary media

spokesperson, and is responsible for leadership and reputation


He feels the coverage of Andersen's role has been balanced.

"No one likes to see the things that are written about our firm," he

said. "But on balance, the reporters in this case have been aggressive,

challenging, and have asked tough questions. I have found them to be, in

most cases, reasonably fair."

He said that Andersen is working to communicate that "this is a firm

that takes seriously its business role, and is committed to doing the

best job right away." Tabolt said he and Patrick Dorton, North America

media relations head, are trying to be as candid as possible with the


Andersen's strategy has been to direct the discussion toward a wider

industry analysis of accounting standards. Joe Berardino, Andersen's

CEO, has been on Lou Dobbs Moneyline and wrote an OpEd piece for The

Wall Street Journal on December 4, titled "A Wake-up Call." "All of us

must focus on ways to improve the system," he wrote.

Along with that analysis, Andersen also wants to communicate a sense of

responsibility. Berardino testified before Congress on December 12,

saying, "I am here today because faith in our firm and in the integrity

of the capital market system has been shaken. If my firm has made errors

in judgment, we will acknowledge them."


Enron's collapse has forced the White House to answer questions about

how much it knew of the company's woes.

NPR reported that more insistent media queries have forced the White

House press office to shift its strategy.

In December, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said that

information about Enron will only come from government agencies

investigating the company.

But last week, he answered a direct question about the White House's

interaction with Enron in a press briefing

On Thursday, President Bush said, in a press conference calling for a

review of pension regulations, "I have never discussed with (Enron CEO

Kenneth Lay) the financial problems of the company." He said the last

time he saw Lay was at a literacy fund-raiser in Houston last spring.

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