October 2018

Book Review

Kartik Pandit, Chartered Accountant

Title: Bean Counters - The Triumph of the Accountants and How They Broke Capitalism

Author: Richard Brooks


A well-researched book that starts with tracing the history of double entry booking keeping and its growth, need and usefulness to the industry from 1200 AD to its present state. It vividly traces the growth in stature of the “bean counters” in the US, UK and European countries. A reader will find interesting history of formation and merger and consolidation of firms leading to the Big 4 firms in its current avatar.

 

Interesting observations on the political influence across countries of the Big 4 will be both a delight and an eye opener for any serious reader and observer on the stature and influence of the Big 4, while the same firms (in spite of rotation) controlling 99% of the market. The styling of Big 4 in US and UK makes interesting reading which the author details out in the book.

 

A view pre and post 1980 on the defined role of Auditors by the author cannot but be missed by the reader where he observes that “for generations members of these huge influential practices considered themselves who happened to be in business but beginning 1980 they saw themselves as businessmen who happened to be in profession.”

 

The author observing that the displaced key performance indicators of Big4, being revenue growth and improved profit margins followed by measures of staff and customer satisfaction while exposing false accounting, fraud, tax evasion and risks to economies’, (everything that the society might want from accountants) not featuring at all as a performance indicator of the firms, raises a basic question on the very model that the firms have now become.

 

The observation on devising of legal structure of the firms for worldwide domination while escaping the responsibility away from home by the HQ by distancing itself from local misdeeds elsewhere in the world, while profitably exploiting the name, brand and commercial networks spills the beans of the operation of the Big 4. For the few past decades all the firm’s global growth coming from selling more consultancy services while its talent of turning any change into fee earning opportuni

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