CHICAGO: Andersen has surrounded itself with a coterie of
communications firms as it has become increasingly implicated in the
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."
WHITE HOUSE ANSWERS ENRON-RELATED PRESS INQUIRIES
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.