Rebellion at Binder grows over merger move

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The Independent Online
THE rebellion at Binder Hamlyn, one of the top 10 accountancy firms, intensified yesterday as it emerged that at least 18 partners in the London office want to vote against the proposed merger with Arthur Andersen, write Neil Thapar and John Willcock.

The move will come as a further blow to the merger plan, which has already caused intense protest at some of Binder's regional offices.

The refuseniks intend to vote against the merger at a formal meeting to held at Binder in the next few days. They represent about 25 per cent of Binder's London partners, who in turn account for half the firm's total number of partners.

Partners at 13 of Binder's offices in Scotland and East Anglia, representing 16 per cent of Binder's turnover, have already rejected the merger. Instead, they are planning to join Stoy Hayward, also one of Britain's biggest accountancy practices. Two offices in Northern Ireland are joining Grant Thornton.

But the London rebels are unable to split off and join an alternative to Andersen under present partnership rules. Partners within Binder's Bristol office are also yet to vote.

Hostility to the merger has been provoked by fears of a clash of cultures. Andersen is seen as more American and aggressive in style, while Binder is a traditional UK firm with a reputation for carrying out sensitive DTI investigations.

There is also dissatisfaction over the terms on offer to Binder partners. There is uncertainty over how many of them will keep their status in the enlarged practice. If they lost their partner status, they would no longer have a stake in the firm's profits.

Much of the criticism is being levelled at Adrian Burn, Binders' senior partner and the architect of the merger plans. Mr Burn, is expected to retain his partner status should the merger go ahead.

'They are not going to have it their way,' one disgruntled partner said. 'Almost all the practices outside London don't want to go to Andersen.'