Julia Irvine 14 Jun 2017 05:21pm

AA&Co to sue Andersen Tax and US, Brazilian and Indian attorneys-general

The French firm that launched a global network in the name of Arthur Andersen & Co (AA&Co) in March has finally broken a three-month silence to announce that it is to sue US-based Andersen Tax for alleged “criminal conspiracy, forgery, use of forged documents and organised fraud

It claims it has issued criminal summonses against the firm, its chief executive Mark Vorsatz, and the attorneys-general of New York (US), Mumbai (India), Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Willemstad, Curaçao (the Netherlands Antilles).

In a short press release, the firm, known as Quatre Juillet Maison Blanche (QJMB) until it adopted the AA&Co name in 2013, said it was “putting a lot of effort into ending and strictly sanctioning the illegal actions committed by Andersen Tax LLC sine 2014”.

These actions, it added were “all implemented in order to appropriate fraudulently the notorious trademarks Arthur Andersen and Andersen, which are exclusively and legitimately owned by Arthur Andersen & Co since 2013”.

However, Andersen Tax, which was originally set up as WTAS in 2002 by 23 former Andersen partners in the aftermath of the Big Five firm’s collapse but changed its name to Andersen Tax in 2014, lays claim to the rights to the name and Arthur Andersen’s intellectual property (IP) including trademarks and copyrights.

These, it says, it has been systematically buying up and registering since 2007. Currently, the firm has related IP registrations in some 90 countries around the world.

As a result of the AA&Co launch, the firm issued proceedings in a number of countries, including the US, India and Brazil. So far courts in the US and Brazil have approved settlements with firms in South America and the US under which they have agreed not to use the AA&Co name, and Andersen Tax has been granted an injunction in India preventing the use of the IP.

The Japanese courts have also ruled in its favour. The US firm is awaiting a judgment in Switzerland following AA&Co’s failure to file and answer to the law suit by the deadline of 22 May and has court cases ongoing in France and China.

Commenting on today’s press release, the firm said, “This is nothing more than an attempt to distract attention from the fact that the group claiming to be Arthur Andersen & Co (formerly QJMB), indeed has no valid rights to the Andersen name.  

“Despite their latest efforts to mislead the news media and the public by making statements that are demonstrably false, this group has been exposed for what they are.

“Not only do they lack a real presence in many of the locations they claim are part of their ‘network’, the courts in the US, India, Brazil and Japan have determined that the French firm and its supposed members operating in these countries violated Andersen Tax’s rights in the Andersen name.  Further, they have ordered those involved to cease using a trademark that doesn’t belong to them.”

AA&Co, neverthless, insists that it has been the “victim of many hostile actions” since the launch on 1 March. In explanatory notes accompanying the release, the firm says that it has been “persistently denigrated by Andersen Tax”.  

It suggests that its affiliates in the US, Brazil and India were forced to stop using the Andersen brands “under the threat and the constant harassment of Andersen Tax” and that Andersen Tax had used “forged documents aiming to mislead courts, professionals and national offices for trademarks”.

In the notes, AA&CO president Stéphane Laffont-Réveilhac accused Andersen Tax directors of lying and cheating “to the detriment of the public, some Judges, the Arthur Andersen alumni, their own employees and affiliated members”. “Such conducts [sic] are offensive and inexcusable,” he added. And he promised to continue “our relentless efforts to build the network”.

Laffont-Réveilhac appears to be less enthusiastic about talking directly  to the press. Numerous requests from economia for information and comment from him and his press office have been met with deafening silence.

Meanwhile, Andersen Tax is sticking to its guns. “We remain steadfast in our resolve to enforce our trademark rights and pursue our remedies to the fullest extent against these infringers in every jurisdiction necessary.” 

The US firm adds that it is confident that courts in jurisdictions around the world will continue to rule in its favour.

It also points out that, despite today’s press release, it has yet to see any evidence that AA&CO has commenced actual criminal proceedings in France.