God’s help during the collapse of Arthur Andersen

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Arthur Andersen, the auditing firm handling Enron, began to unravel as a result of the Enron scandal. Robert Wright was a senior partner who decided that his primary goal would be to get jobs elsewhere for the people in his division when Andersen collapsed.  He began looking to sell the division to a firm that would agree to retain the employees, and he discovered he needed to rely on God.

I realized I had totally underestimated what was going on and that I was not relying on God enough. And it was an exercise in faith for me at that point. I was starting to get sucked up into the same self-pity as many of the partners. I wouldn’t show it externally, but I felt it internally.

I was still getting to know most of the partners and one day one of these partners walks into my office and said, “You’re calm and you look like you’ve got this whole thing under control. What’s the deal?” When another partner asked me the same question I said, “No matter what happens here, my Lord is protecting me. I am in the eye of the storm, and I am calm and at peace, because Jesus has promised he will take care of me and my family.” And her eyes were about this big and she said, “Really?” We ended up having about a 45-minute discussion and she and her family came to our church that Sunday.

I got to the point where I’d be in front of a group of two or three hundred people—from brand new staff people up to managers—and I would tell them, I know where my sense of identity comes from, my sense of power, my sense of sustenance comes from, and for me it’s my faith.” And I added, “Each of you needs to find where that is for you.”

I told Ruth, my wife, “I don’t want you to worry. God will take care of us, but you need to know the full picture.” Then I added, “And from now on, I’m going to be focusing all my energies on the deal so I’m not going to be around. I’m sorry, but I’m going to be working 80+ hour weeks until this thing is done; it could be four weeks, it could be four months. It’s so heavy on my heart to get all these people jobs.” My wife’s incredible. She said, “I understand. I totally agree with you.”

In July, four months later, the deal was done.  Most of the assets were distributed, and Andersen voluntarily surrendered its licenses to practice. Almost all of the people, including support people in the West Coast Tax division were able to keep their jobs.

“Bob Wright: Courage in an Ethical Crisis”, Ethix, Issue 39 (Jan-Feb 2005), accessed at http://ethix.org/2005/02/01/courage-in-an-ethical-crisis on May 1, 2014.