Accounting in Partnerships
journal contributionposted on 01.03.2006, 00:00 by Steven Huddart, Jinghong Liang
In 1914, an accounting professor named Arthur Andersen founded a public accounting practice that became the world’s largest professional-services firm. For years preceding the Enron debacle and Andersen’s collapse, the firm had struggled to create incentives within the organization for partners to provide high-quality service, develop and sell new services, and meet the compensation expectations of various factions of partners. A years-long dispute over the division of profits between the firm’s consulting and accounting arms led to the 1998 separation of the consulting practice from the audit and tax practices. The rise, break-up and fall of Andersen underlines the importance of questions concerning incentive structures within public accounting firms in particular, and partnerships of professionals in general. This paper offers a perspective on partner compensation schemes and the accounting information systems that support them.