Accounting for Success: A History of Price Waterhouse in America 1890-1990

Overview

While histories of companies abound, little has been written on America's professional service partnerships such as those in the accounting or legal fields. Now in Accounting for Success, Allen and McDermott help close the gap with an absorbing account of the century-old distinguished accounting firm of Price Waterhouse (PW). Written in a crisp and engaging style, this book traces PW's rise to leadership through three distinct periods. The first period (1890 to mid-1920s) encompasses the growth of the firm from a...
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Overview

While histories of companies abound, little has been written on America's professional service partnerships such as those in the accounting or legal fields. Now in Accounting for Success, Allen and McDermott help close the gap with an absorbing account of the century-old distinguished accounting firm of Price Waterhouse (PW). Written in a crisp and engaging style, this book traces PW's rise to leadership through three distinct periods. The first period (1890 to mid-1920s) encompasses the growth of the firm from a one-man outpost for a British parent to a successful, Americanized partnership in its own right. These years mark the beginning of PW's trademark relationships with blue chip clients as well as the formation of some of the firm's most distinctive characteristics: its decentralized structure, dispersed offices, autonomous partners, and generalist orientation. With the coming of the securities laws of 1933 and 1934, the reader witnesses the dawning PW's golden second period which continues through the next forty years as the firm dominates in its role of auditor to America's largest corporations. The market upheavals of the 1970s usher in PW's third and current period - a time in which the firm, like much of American business, finds itself having to adapt and change in the face of a globalized economy, heightened competition among firms, and an explosion of information technology and nonaudit services. Throughout Waterhouse's illustrious past century, six central themes recur that offer valuable perspectives for those looking toward the future, the impact of the "professionally autonomous partner" on the firm's strategic outlook, the significant role that the law and litigation play in shaping the profession's rights and responsibilities, the changing nature of accounting, the shifting markets for professional services, the highly visible public face of the firm's leadership and PW's worldwide approach to its business.
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Editorial Reviews

David Rouse
Most of us are probably familiar with the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse because of its memorable name and its association with the Academy Awards ceremony. Allen and McDermott provide a 100-year history of this business institution, tracing its British roots and eventual "Americanization." Major changes in the profession and in the accounting "industry" are thereby detailed. These culminated in the hectic merger activity of the 1980s, which left six major accounting firms instead of the traditional "Big Eight." "Accounting for Success" will be a must for business history and accounting collections, but it will also be helpful in comprehensive job-hunting research collections, given the difficulty in obtaining information about accounting firms.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780875843285
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.51 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Exhibits
Preface
Pt. I Establishment and Americanization
Ch. 1 British Parentage, 1850-1901 3
Development of the Accounting Profession 3
PW in Britain 7
British Investment in the United States 9
The American Agency 12
Jones, Caesar & Co. 18
A New Century 24
Ch. 2 The Americanization of the Practice, 1901-1926 27
The Dickinson Decade 28
From Dickinson to May 45
Pt. II Regulated Equilibrium
Ch. 3 Coming of Age, 1926-1946 61
The Audit Practice in the 1920s 62
The Depression Years 64
Leadership in Transition 74
New Directions and Wartime Developments 80
Interlude: PW During the War 83
Ch. 4 A Golden Age, 1946-1961 87
The Postwar Boom 88
Ch. 5 The Challenge of Growth, 1961-1969 121
The "Go-Go" Years 122
The Computer Comes of Age 123
Herman Bevis and Administrative Reform 125
Staffing the Tax Department 131
MAS Makes Its Way 133
Auditing and Accounting 136
The Debate Over Growth 142
The Demise of the APB 153
Pt. III Challenge and Redirection
Ch. 6 A Turbulent Era, 1969-1978 165
John Biegler and Democratic Reform 166
The Profession on the Defensive 171
Defining New Roles 176
Organized Responses 182
Escalating Rivalry 184
PW'S Strategic Response 188
Three Practices in Transition 194
Adjustments to a World of Diversity 198
Ch. 7 New Directions, 1978-1988 207
Restructuring at the Top 208
The Breakdown of Traditional Practice 212
The Professional Environment 222
The Firm in a Shrinking World 236
Summing Up 240
Ch. 8 Beginning a Second Hundred Years 243
Reflections on the First Century 248
Appendix: Price Waterhouse U.S. Firm Partners and Principals, 1895-1992 259
Notes 299
Acknowledgments 359
Index 363
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