Former head of Arthur Andersen speaks on campus

Talk by Joseph Berardino before students, faculty and guests emphasizes role of Jesuit values in business | November 18, 2004

Joseph Berardino, managing partner and chief executive officer of Andersen Worldwide at the time the Enron scandal broke, advised Xavier business students to “lead with their hearts” during a visit to campus on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Andersen Worldwide was the umbrella organization that included accounting giant Arthur Andersen, Enron's auditing firm.

Berardino appeared as a guest of the William’s College of Business’ department of accountancy and its center for business ethics and social responsibility. He spoke to a group of students, faculty, trustees and business leaders in the Conaton Board Room about the challenges of “living and working in interesting times.”

In the course of the hour-long presentation, Berardino discussed how changes in the business world, the political arena and the media since the 1980s have helped shape today’s business—and the way business is perceived. A 1972 graduate of Fairfield University, he also hailed the value of a Catholic, Jesuit education in navigating the business world, urging students periodically to ask themselves three questions: “Who am I?” “Whose am I?” and “Who am I called to become?”

While he didn’t dwell on Enron, Berardino told those assembled that knowing the answers to those questions, particularly the second one, helped keep him on an even keel when the scandal darkened. Berardino launched his 30-year career at Arthur Andersen immediately after graduating from Fairfield. In January 2001 he was elected CEO of what was then a $9 billion company with 85,000 employees in 84 countries and charged with revitalizing the firm following the splitting off of its consulting wing. But by early the next year, it was clear that the problems surrounding the company’s involvement in the Enron scandal were escalating. In March 2002, Berardino fired himself in a last-ditch attempt to save the company, which eventually collapsed. He is now vice chairman of a New York-based asset management firm and heads a biotech company.

Paul Fiorelli, director for the center for business ethics and social responsibility, says presentations like Berardino’s are invaluable in driving home some very critical points. “His talk really underscored the importance of values and the importance of a Jesuit education and how that can help during difficult times,” Fiorelli said.