Enron scandal troubles future student recruits

Jonathan Kay

Students eating lunch Thursday in Andersen Hall differed on their opinions about the quality of food, but many said that the name, Andersen, is too tainted for them to digest.

Kellogg Graduate School of Management students said they would be less likely to work for the Andersen accounting firm because of its association with the Enron scandal, despite Anderson’s many connections to Northwestern.

Emily Sunday, a first-year Kellogg student, said that when looking for accounting jobs, she would not consider working for Andersen.

“It’s important to me to work for a company I believe in and that does the right thing,” Sun said.

Arthur Andersen, a Kellogg accounting professor from 1912 to 1922 and chairman of Kellogg’s board of trustees from 1930 to 1932, established one the most successful accounting firms in the world. The firm has maintained a presence at NU through annual on-campus recruiting and corporate sponsorship of Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications graduate program.

But as the Enron scandal unfolded, Andersen’s ethics came into question because of its role as the energy giant’s auditor. The firm is suspected of ignoring some of Enron’s allegedly dishonest practices and shredding incriminating papers.

Kelly Bikel, a first-year Kellogg student, said she was concerned with Andersen’s ability to persevere through the scandal.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to be able to attract new clients, much less keep the ones they have,” Bikel said. “There are still many unknowns as to how the whole Enron scandal will pan out.”

First-year Kellogg student Phillia Wibowo said she is skeptical Andersen will even survive the scandal.

“I feel sustainability is a major concern,” she said. “With the scandal now I don’t know if I’d still have job in five years.”

Repeated attempts to contact the firm were unsuccessful, but Kellogg accounting Prof. Bala Balachandran, who served as a faculty resident at Andersen for nine months from 1977 to 1978, said the company can regroup and overcome the scandal with even more objectivity and integrity.

“Andersen is tainted and slightly damaged, but they will come through with stronger force,” he said. “It is true they may have created a questionable audit practice, but that doesn’t mean the full company with high ethical standards can be a bad institution to work in.”

Kellogg accounting Prof. Larry Revsine said Andersen does not recruit Kellogg graduates because their salary demands are too high. But the company is a perennial on-campus recruiter for undergraduates, making its most recent visit to NU Jan. 10 at the 2002 Career Expo.

Andersen will survive the scandal and its recruiting presence will not be affected, said Dianne Siekmann, associate director for employment services at University Career Services.

But some said that to remain a significant recruiter Andersen may need to make students must feel comfortable working for the firm.

“I’m not sure their way of doing business is something I want to be involved with,” said Doug Swol, a Weinberg senior majoring in economics.

Some Kellogg students said they would work for Andersen, but only if they had no other offers.

“I would not say (the scandal) disqualifies it as a company, but if all else were equal, I’d take another job,” said Markus Hildinger, a Kellogg second-year student.

Kellogg second year Evan Gallinson said he would wait to work for Andersen until the company re-establishes its credibility.

“I would hate to go to a place where morale is so low,” Gallinson said.

But shredded documents or not, first-year Kellogg student Ed Bird said he’s more interested in a different kind of paper.

“If you pay me enough, I’ll do anything,” Bird said.