Can a Bad Name Turn Good Again?

Embracing positive changes within a firm.
blank hello my name is sticker

A few months ago, we asked “What’s in a name change?” SAC Capital, hoping to distance itself from scandal, had just become Point72, prompting discussion of what circumstances make a name change advisable. So when we noticed the revival of a familiar-sounding Andersen Tax, we were immediately intrigued. You may remember the name from Arthur Andersen: the holding company and auditor that failed to report Enron’s institutional and accounting fraud. That was twelve years ago. Now, WTAS, a tax firm led by ex-Arthur Andersen partners, has decided to rename their firm Andersen Tax. But the question is, have those twelve years been enough to ease – or even erase – the Andersen reputation?

A name change is certainly not an easy process: the endeavor can be costly, drawn-out, exhausting and, if not done thoughtfully, can hurt a company more than it helps. But, we noted in an earlier post, “a company that wants to rebrand with a new name should do so to embrace a positive change within the firm, and not to run away from something.”

WTAS seems to have done their due diligence: they commissioned a poll which found that in the US, an overwhelming 83% agreed that the name held attributes of being ethical, though 65% noted it was “a tarnished brand.” Tarnished it may be to some, but if the company embraces its positive attributes, the firm has a chance of building a new reputation for the name. After all, Andersen Tax will stay within the tax consulting domain, steering clear of the auditing that got them into trouble over a decade ago.

This is evident in the firm’s recent advertising, as well as its own website. The new messaging acknowledges that Andersen has a past, but declares that it is focusing on the future. And chief executive Mark Vorsatz is confident: according to the Wall Street Journal, “scandal or no, Mr. Vorsatz says he remains proud of the Andersen name and the values of quality, stewardship and client service he says it stood for.” It’s now up to Andersen Tax to hold strongly to those values, and let time prove the firm’s commitment to them. If this happens, then the resurrection of the Andersen name may well prove to be a stroke of genius.

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