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The Big Four: The Curious Past and Perilous Future of the Global Accounting Monopoly

Narrated by: Wayne Shepherd
Length: 6 hrs and 57 mins
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)
Non-member price: $27.79
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Publisher's Summary

With staffs that are collectively larger than the Russian army and combined revenues of over $130 billion a year, the Big Four accounting firms - Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG - are a keystone of global commerce. But leading scholar Ian Gow and award-winning author Stuart Kells warn that a house of cards may be about to fall.  

Stretching back to the Medicis in Renaissance Florence, this book is a fascinating story of wealth, power, and luck. The founders of the Big Four lived surprisingly colorful lives. Samuel Price, for example, married his own niece. Between the world wars, Nicholas Waterhouse collected postage stamps while also hosting decadent parties in his fashionable London home.   

All four firms have endured major calamities in recent decades. There have been hundreds of court cases and legal prosecutions for failed audits, tax scandals, and breaches of independence. The firms have come so close to “extinction level events” that regulators have required them to prepare “living wills”. And today, the Big Four face an uncertain future thanks to their push into China, their vulnerability to digital disruption and competition, and the hazards of providing traditional services in a new era of transparency.   

This account of the past, present, and likely future of the Big Four is essential listening for anyone perplexed or fascinated by professional services, working or considering working in the industry, or simply curious about the fate of the global economy.

©2018 Ian D. Gow and Stuart Kells (P)2018 Ian D. Gow and Stuart Kells

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  • Mr. Smart
  • 02-08-2018

A good book especially if you are an outsider

A good book on a topic that has gotten little book attention over the years.. still a bit basic for me.. I would have liked more analysis and projections on the how and why. That being said a really great analysis.. after 20 years in the industry probably why it seems a bit basic to me.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 26-12-2018

Prior employee from a big four firm

Overall I thought the book was well write and shared a lot of the history of how the big four developed. Certain parts of the book reminded me a lot of the book moral mazes and how bureaucratic ethics really take effect within the big four and how partners have to act and who rises to the top of the company. Some of the stories they provide about staff level and seniors associates are completely true. If the authors really wanted too they could of gone even deeper and share some of the unusual things that go on within the auditing world...

While I do not fully agree with their conclusion that the big four business auditing model will fail due to the raise of automation and new technologies. They provide a good argument to what could possibly happened. If you are an ex big four employee it is a good book to read.

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  • Edward
  • 21-11-2018

Superficial and boring

I’m a former big 8 accountant who hoped to learn something new. Instead I got a series of cliches wrapped in a droning narrative that almost seemed to be an ironic nod to accounting’s boring image.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-08-2018

Boring

Very boring and focused mainly on only two companies. I am expected a more interesting narrative.