'Titanic' PW video gains cult status

A VIDEO that compares Price Waterhouse to the Titanic and helped Standard Chartered secure dollars 338m ( pounds 227m) in damages against the accounting firm is achieving minor cult status among the US legal and accounting professions.

Called The Titanic, the 18- minute documentary used in the trial's summing-up alternates emotive scenes from the 1958 British-made film, A Night to Remember, with information and graphics about how the accounting firm's allegedly faulty auditing procedures caused Standard Chartered to invest pounds 335m in United Bank of Arizona. 'The jury loved it,' said a legal official at the bank.

Price Waterhouse did not. Daniel J McAuliffe, its lawyer from the Phoenix firm of Snell & Wilmer, objected to its use at the trial and cited it in a successful appeal to overturn the May 1992 decision. In his appeal brief, Mr McAuliffe said: 'The video distorted the evidence in the case . . . (to) suggest that PW's conduct should be equated to reckless disregard for human life.'

The video replays several scenes from the movie, in which officers are handed warnings from other ships of icebergs in the North Atlantic but ignored them. Likewise, says the narrator, Price Waterhouse ignored warnings, including some from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp about shoddy loans and faulty lending procedures.

A final scene shows the giant ocean liner slipping beneath the waves as the narrator says in subdued tones: 'Price Waterhouse had numerous warnings United Bank was in troubled waters but also chose not to listen . . . Perhaps they too thought they were invincible.'