Tech Q2 - What do you know about Big 4?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hint - The Big 4 Auditors, sometimes written as the Big Four Auditors or also known as Final Four, are the four largest international accountancy and professional services firms, which handle the vast majority of audits for publicly traded companies as well as many private companies. The Big Four firms are shown below, with their latest publicly available data* :-

Year - - Revenue - - People - - - Firm
2008 - - $27.4bn - - 1,65,000 - - Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
2007 - - $25.2bn - - 1,46,700 - - PricewaterhouseCoopers
2007 - - $21.1bn - - 1,30,000 - - Ernst & Young

2007 - - $19.8bn - - 1,23,000 - - KPMG


*courtesy WikiPedia
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This group was once known as the "Big Eight" before a series of mergers and also included Arthur Andersen. Arthur Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice in the wake of the 2001 Enron scandal, but the conviction was reversed by the United States Supreme Court in 2005.
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Constitution :-
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None of the Big Four accounting firms is a single firm. Each is a network of firms, owned and managed independently, which have entered into agreements with other member firms in the network to share a common name, brand and quality standards. Each network has established an entity to co-ordinate the activities of the network. In two cases (KPMG and Deloitte Touche Tomatsu), the co-ordinating entity is Swiss, and in two cases (PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young) the co-ordinating entity is a UK limited company. Those entities do not themselves practise accountancy, and do not own or control the member firms.
In most cases each member firm practises in a single country, and is structured to comply with the regulatory environment in that country. However, in 2007 KPMG announced a merger of four member firms (in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein) to form a single firm. The figures in this article refer to the combined revenues of each network of firms.

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Big Four in INDIA
In India, foreign accountancy firms are prohibited from entering the audit and assurance sectors. The Big Four therefore service clients through affiliate firms.
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. . . In India, the affiliate firms of the Big Four are :-
  • C. C. Chokshi & Co., S. B. Billimoria Co, A. F. Ferguson & Co, Fraser & Ross, MCA & Co P. C. Hansotia and Deloitte Haskins & Sells - affiliates of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
  • Bharat S. Raut & Co (BSR & Co) - affiliate of KPMG
  • Price Waterhouse, Price Waterhouse & Co, Lovelock & Lewes & RSM & Co.,Dalal & Shah - affiliates of PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • S.R. Batliboi & Co, S.R. Batliboi & Associates - affiliate of Ernst & Young
  • Walker Chandiok & Co - affiliate and member firm of Grant Thornton LLP

History :-

Big 8 (until 1989)
The firms were called the Big 8 for most of the 20th century, reflecting the international dominance of the eight largest accountancy firms:

  1. Arthur Andersen
  2. Arthur Young & Company
  3. Coopers & Lybrand
  4. Ernst & Whinney (until 1979 Ernst & Ernst in the US and Whinney Murray in the UK)
  5. Deloitte Haskins & Sells (until 1978 Haskins & Sells in the US and Deloitte Plender Griffiths in the UK)
  6. Peat Marwick Mitchell, later Peat Marwick
  7. Price Waterhouse
  8. Touche Ross

Big 6 (1989-1998)
Competition among these public accountancy firms intensified and the Big 8 became the Big 6 in 1989 when Ernst & Whinney merged with Arthur Young to form Ernst & Young in June, and Deloitte, Haskins & Sells merged with Touche Ross to form Deloitte & Touche in August.

Big 5 (1998-2002)
The Big 6 became the Big 5 in July 1998 when Price Waterhouse merged with Coopers & Lybrand to form PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Big 4 (2002-till date)
The Enron collapse and ensuing investigation prompted scrutiny of their financial reporting, which was audited by Arthur Andersen, which eventually was indicted for obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to the audit in the 2001 Enron scandal. The resulting conviction, since overturned, still effectively meant the end for Arthur Andersen. Most of its country practices around the world have sold to members of what is now the Big Four, notably Ernst & Young globally and Deloitte & Touche in the UK.


Big 4 are sometimes referred as "Final Four" due to widely held perception that authority is unlikely to allow further concentration of accounting industry and that the fifth biggest accounting firm, BDO International, is unlikely to grow to comparable size of Big 4. Another widely held belief is that, if something similar to Enron/Arthur-Andersen occurs, the authority is unlikely to punish the remaining Big 4 in a manner which destroy the firm itself like U.S. authority did with Arthur Andersen.
2002 also saw the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act into law, providing strict compliance rules to both businesses and the auditors.

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