Purpose – This paper aims to provide an analysis of the choices Arthur Andersen faced in dealing with the crisis that ultimately let to its downfall in 2001-2002. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is built around institutional theory. Specifically, it applies the propositions provided by Oliver (1990, 1991) to the historical record. Findings – The failure to develop a coherent response, combined with a failure to anticipate the specific role of the state led to Andersen’s inability to navigate the institutional field. Research limitations/implications – The usual limitations of institutional theory are acknowledged. These pertain to the lack of a micro-level analysis, the additional impact of pure economic rationality and the chance that every crisis of faith is unique. Practical implications – The article adds to our appreciation of what not to do in the face of crisis by the government and those in charge of large accounting organizations. Social implications – The article adds to the recently in the news “too big to fail” problem with successful economic agents. Originality/value – The article adds to institutional theory by providing a different story than the usual, where everything is cleverly managed and the crisis is overcome.
Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 2, 2015
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