The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, March 08, 2002, Image 6

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CHICAGO (AP) — Blue- chip corporations are joining the growing exodus of clients at Arthur Andersen LLP, leading some experts to question whether the accounting giant can survive the Enron scandal. Andersen is known to have lost about three dozen public companies as clients since the collapse of the Houston energy giant, including Delta Air Lines on Thursday and Freddie Mac the day before. Merck Inc. and SunTrust Banks also recently dropped Andersen. That is a small percentage of Andersen’s more than 2,300 U.S. public audit clients. But experts say the quickening defections of large and influential companies could have fatal consequences for the accounting firm. Andersen spokesman Patrick Dorton acknowledged “a few” companies have sev ered ties because of “concerns about the negative publicity” from Andersen’s role as Enron’s chief auditor. ”We certainly regret the loss of any one of these small num ber of clients,” he said. “But we are gratified that the vast major ity of Andersen’s more than 100,000 clients around the world remain with the firm.” Nevertheless, Itzhak Sharav, an accounting professor at Columbia University, said the extent of the sudden losses appears to be unprecedented among the Big Five accounting firms. He said more companies are expected to dump Andersen in the next few weeks in annual regulatory filings and at share holder meetings. “Normally you gain some clients and lose some at this time of year. But what you have now is a one-way street. It’s very hard for them to get other clients to replace the ones that defect,” Sharav said. He added: “At least in the minds of many, it's a sinking ship.” University of Toronto accounting professor Ramy Elitzur said Andersen is being treated as an industry pariah despite its stellar past reputa tion and the fact other top firms have also been involved in cases of negligence. “They are in dire straits.” he said. “Probably the only option at this point is to merge with another firm that will salvage them.” Andersen has admitted its employees shredded Enron-relat ed documents. It is under investi gation by Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. This year, Andersen was dis missed by 21 public companies and dropped 10 itself, for a total of 31 losses, while gaining two, according to AuditorTrak. an Atlanta-based service that com piles auditor changes. The losses do not include Delta, Freddie Mac. Merck or private organizations. The four other biggest U.S. NEWS IN BRIEF 721 Texas Aue. 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Right Job.’ accounting firms combined have 39 losses this year. Their total of new clients was not available. Andersen had 23 losses at the same time a year ago, 14 in 2000 and 16 in 1999. Lost fees from the Five departed blue-chip clients — Merck, Freddie Mac, Delta, SunTrust and Enron, which fired Andersen in January — amount to between $75 million and $ 100 million based on 2001 totals, according to industry analyst Arthur Bowman. “Since we’re talking about a multibillion-dollar firm, that doesn’t appear to be a great deal, except that these are premier clients who influence clients, said Bowman. Atlanta-based Accounting Repon. "TV ot events hpe a deepr than appears on the sufcl In a sign of potently defections. Bowman sal other large Andersenc :K Georgia Pacific, FedEgj Southern Baptist Comr,. all have invited other mg Finns to submit prop; Delta is retaining Amell perform some tax andoaj suiting services. It didnJ ment on what role it I scandal played in ns<k j hire Deloitte & Toucheij I Each liews r^ least o ■ lion. IV1 < ■ariety fcainful I ftnd sh» < ■hemse I The £ fteache: Station Subtracting their accountant ftdvanta ■ill Aggi< Arthur Anderson, which did auditing and consulting workfaH Corp.. has seen a mass exodus of its clients in the wake of It*; debacle. Arthur Andersen's largest public clients and annual salts billions as of December 2001 Bold indicates some companies that have broken with or announces to break with Arthur Andersen Merck & Co. Enron Corp. Costco Companies Dynergy Inc. UtiliCorp United . Freddie Mac International Paper Georgia Pacific S40.363 S40 112 $32,164 $29,445 $28 975 S28 350 $28 180 $22,218 9 Walgreen Co. 10 United Health Group 11. SysCo Corp 12. UAL Corp 13 WorldCorn Inc. 14 Sara Lee Corp 15. Ultramar Diamond Shamrock 16. FedEx Corp 17. Aquila Energy Corp 18. Delta Airlines 19. Hartford Financial Services Group 20. May Department Stores mrfaruigrn Opi New New SOURCES: Bowman's Accounting Report: Associated Press I The Bat less and in Hserves the Hd in perse ■ailed to: C Astronauts insta ■7843-111 ] camera on Hubl CAPE CANAVERAL. Fla. (AP) — Spacewalking astro nauts widened the Hubble Space Telescope’s eyes to the universe Thursday by installing the most advanced optical camera ever launched for studying the heavens. James Newman and Michael Massimino made room for the $76 million Advanced Camera for Surveys by pulling out the last of the 12-year-old Hubble's original scientific instruments. The new camera will allow Hubble to peer deeper into space, all the way back to some of the early phases of the universe more than 12 bil lion years ago, when galaxies began to form. You guys just paved the way for a lot of Ph.D.s in the years to come,” said astronaut Richard Linnehan, who moni tored the 7 1/2-hour spacewalk from inside space shuttle Columbia. It was the fourth spacewalk in as many days for Columbia’s crew and the longest one yet. One final excursion was planned for Friday; astronauts will attempt to resuscitate an infrared camera that has not worked for three years. Newman slid the new cam era into Hubble on guide rails as Massimino called out the clearances for the 875-pound device, about the size of a phone booth but considerably more fragile. Within minutes, the camera was all the way in and latched down tight. h passed its initial tests. Flight controllers in will spend the nextnw two fine-tuning the ins“ Astronomers hope n using it by early May- The instniment, "te five years to develop©- is actually three came®! Altogether, it will pro'^ the field of view, twice4( ity and five times thei$ of Hubble’s current "w the 8-year-old Wide Planetary Camera. “The advanced c going to add 10 timesift bility to Hubble. University of C ai astronomer Garth I the camera’s deputy ‘So here we have- entist. — , scope that is incredibly , ready to move for the-- , He described this ' power improvement / n re Hubble as a tuneuponj ca// . automobile.” On Thuy said, the astronauts p ul Em turbocharger. ignor “Hubble will detey reasc faint stars and galaxies 1 peop first 18 months than by Jen S ( detected with all of theP| dose Hubble instruments,"'■ daydi Hopkins University as® Out Holland Ford, who led 1 violaf that built the camera.' spon the camera may he a Timo ture images of planets 1 and other nearby stars. nuke The new camera f leave ed into the slot that beojzens the Faint Object We r which was original et l . tons on Hubble in 1990 but tions ally became obsolee jus 1970s technology-It w In out of service a few )' e ‘ j|te[ meet me at SATCHELS $ 1 — Longnecks all day / every day jus Across the street from Traditions Dorm 260-8850 TREE PARKING BEHIND SHADOW CANYOH yo