During dbrief periods of wakefulness the other day, as I was writing about Deloitte, I was trying to remember the Big Eight accounting firms. You know, trying to recall how many there were, what were their names and who merged with whom to form the Big Four.
I had a head start because I had interviewed with at least six of them when I moved to Cincinnati and I worked for Ernst & Whinney when they hooked up with Arthur Young. But I am embarrassed to say that I failed to come up with all eight.
I forgot Price Waterhouse, probably the only one that normal people would think of because PW always audited the results of the Academy Awards. That was the dream job of every young accounting student, CPA wannabe: to appear at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with the host, Johnny Carson or whoever, and receive worldwide recognition in not just Accounting for, but Publicly Certifying the Oscar votes. It’s an awesome responsibility.
Turns out I did not have the right stuff for PW; maybe that’s why I blocked their name. Best not to dwell on such things too much. Trying to recall the orgy of mergers that changed the face of Big Accounting made me think about the folk and rock group evolutions in the 60s/70s. Even though there were only 8 firms in the Big 8 (I looked it up) I can more easily remember the members of Buffalo Springfield and how they became Poco, Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young), Loggins and Messina and Souther, Hillman Furray or how Cream split and you had Traffic, Blind Faith etc.
While researching the Big 8::4 auditors, I wondered if there is any repository of accounting history and artifacts. Turns out, the Accounting Museum opened in 1989 in New Jersey. New Jersey: home of mobsters, corrupt politicians and felonious rabbis. Nice place for an accounting museum. They can spotlight great moments in embezzling and have a special exhibit on Arthur Anderson (Enron’s auditors – now defunct).
The actual museum is (was?) located in some accountant’s office. I’m sure it boosted their client list as the public flocked to see the star attraction, “an accounting ledger dating back to 1873” or the turn-of-the-century adding machines. I would hope they also had something documenting the first known double entendre joke about “double entry accounting”.
(The picture at the top is Luca Pacioli, the Father of Double Entry Accounting. I don't know if the person behind him is Mrs. Double Entry saying, "Luca, your multi-tasking with the ledger and the pie chart has got me so hot. Come to bed, sir, and show me the big 8".)
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