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Headhunters loyal to Andersen. (Career Corner).

About 18 months ago, the country's largest temp firm for manual workers, Labor Ready in Tacoma, Wash., became the object of a campaign by the AFL-CIO to force from it greater disclosure about its labor practices.

But when Enron's misdeeds became public, the campaign against Labor Ready took a different tone. The union began accusing the firm, which is audited by Andersen for the time being, of Enron-like partnerships and poor auditor independence.

Labor Ready's finances aside, part of the union's "evidence" against it is that its CFO, Steven Cooper, worked for Andersen before joining Labor Ready in 1999. "They're trying to get attention," says Cooper, 39, who notes that he was on the consulting side and didn't have material decision making authority. "They're going to take the most current event and sensationalize it."

Rightly or wrongly, countless Andersen alumni now working for corporations as controllers, treasurers, CFOs and even CEOs have been potentially exposed to guilt-by-association.

"It's a perception problem, so whether you're from Enron or Andersen, you've got to live with the tainted brand," says Dale Jones, managing partner for the southeast in the Atlanta office of executive recruiter Heidrick & Struggles, who believes this too will pass.

While most ex-Andersenites aren't too worried, "it's our clients who have obvious concerns surrounding people who've been involved in those organizations -- and we operate under our clients' guidance," counters Keith Anderson, a partner with Heidrick & Struggles in San Francisco. "All of this is made no easier by an economy that's relatively slow; there's a greater supply of good people than there is demand." Recruiters at Russell Reynolds and Korn/Ferry declined to comment, citing conflicts of interest.

Fortunately for Andersen alumni, scandal and opportunism are no match for Andersen's heretofore peerless reputation as an incubator of executive talent.

The vast majority of recruiters would agree with Roger Kenny, managing partner at recruiting firm Boardroom Consultants in New York: "When you think of Andersen you think of training and discipline. There are very fond feelings about Andersen's history of professionalism. Even if [Andersen] disappears, no executive with that heritage should ever deny or downplay it."

The 89-year-old Andersen firm employs 85,000 people, thousands of whom trained at its renowned facility on the Fox River in St. Charles, Ill. Last year it spent more than $550 million on employee training, and was named one of Fortune's top employers for the 19th year in a row.

Ted Jadick, vice chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in New York, says about the scandal:

"It doesn't bother me, and if it bothered a client I would challenge their thinking."
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Title Annotation:Arthur Andersen and Co.
Author:Sherwood, Sonja
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:432
Previous Article:Time of the title. (Arrivals).
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