I’ve just sent this letter to Mark Weinberger, the global Chairman and CEO of EY – third largest of the Big Four international accounting networks – and a member of President Trump’s Strategic and Advisory Council.
Dear Mark –
Somewhat uncertainly attributed to Winston Churchill, on the belated shift in US policy to support Britain in advance of the outbreak of World War II, is the sentiment that, “the Americans will always do the right thing, after exhausting all the alternatives.”
President Trump, in his unhinged press conference earlier today, put on enough spin to nauseate a dervish in re-doubling his repugnant position of Saturday that “many sides” were to blame for the murderous racially-motivated violence in Charlottesville the day before. In doing so, he just handed you the perfect second chance to do what you should already have done – resign from his Strategic and Advisory Council.
Your anodyne tweet of yesterday (@Mark_Weinberger), that it is “time for business leaders and government to unite to help ensure we become stronger through our differences” no longer will wash. Having inherited both his money and his bigotry from his father Fred, and going to school on the ethics and tactics of that epitome of corruption, Roy Cohn, Donald Trump is not about to tolerate your unifying aspirations, however nobly intended.
You’ve known his character for years. Ernst & Young in 2004 qualified its opinion on the financial statements of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., for its “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” As your lawyers will tell you, the likelihood of recidivism for a huckster and a charlatan is essentially 100%.
That is today no more plainly displayed than in the reported absence of “self-discipline, control and personal honesty” in Trump’s golf game. Give credence to the observation of P.G. Wodehouse, that “to find a man’s true character, play golf with him” – as applied to the description of Trump’s game by former ESPN columnist Rick Reilly: “This guy cheats from start to finish…It was just one free mulligan after another.”
It should be a no-brainer. Not only do you have ample cover – at this writing there are already five other departures, led by Merck CEO Ken Frazier's departure from the President's American Manufacturing Council.
Moreover, you’re practically immune from any threat of blowback from the bloviator-in-chief, because you and your Big Four colleagues have a lock on the world’s large-company market. That presents you all with other very grave concerns (for which, see my recently-published book, “Count Down: The Past, Present and Uncertain Future of the Big Four Accounting Firms.”) But the legal requirement for public-company audits means your collective client base has nowhere else to go.
The call for you to act first went up yesterday – Caleb Newquist at his Going Concern clipped your own words, “We have to back up our rhetoric with action.”
Not all will agree, of course – but Newquist with his massive readership among the youngsters of the profession has his finger on its pulse – and you would be wise to give heed.
If you expect credibility with your young workforce, who drive your firm’s prosperity today and will one day inherit your mantle of leadership, then “back up your rhetoric.” The legacy for which you will be remembered will be marked by your behavior in response to the unacceptable dog-whistling now shrilling out of the White House.
Respectfully yours –
Jim Peterson is former in-house lawyer and partner at Arthur Andersen, this letter was first published on his blog Re:Balance