Troubled auditor loses first major British client

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The Independent Online

Andersen's problems have spread to the UK with confirmation that the embattled accounting firm has lost a major British client. Mayflower, the bus and coach chassis manufacturer, has axed Andersen after a relationship which has lasted more than five years.

John Major, the former prime minister, is a non-executive director of Mayflower and is thought to have played a significant part in the decision. He is a member of the audit committee which decided Andersen's fate.

Though Andersen has lost several high-profile clients in the US, Mayflower is the first UK defection. It is thought PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed instead.

Andersen confirmed Mayflower's move yesterday but said the decision was made in September before the Enron affair.

Much will now depend on the loyalty of Andersen's biggest UK clients, such as WPP, BSkyB and Cadbury Schweppes. Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP's chief executive, said: "We continuously review all our advisory relationships and this isn't any different."

Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, another Andersen client, was more supportive. "I don't think the integrity of the UK operation is in question," he said.

The comments came as the Bank of England intervened in the Enron debate. David Clementi, who is responsible for financial stability, urged industry to consider rotating their audit firms to avoid a conflict of interest. He said quoted companies had for some time recognised it was "best practice" to change the auditor who scrutinised the company's accounts.

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