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by Derek Loosvelt | September 10, 2009


While commercial and investment banks have been cutting costs, booking losses and making headlines for questionable business practices, public accounting firms have been quietly prospering. For the most part, the Big Four international accounting firms and smaller regional firms have avoided the mass layoffs and mass losses that have recently plagued many other financial services sectors. As a result, accounting firms have continued to build their staffs, hiring many new employees from campuses nationwide.

This week, as universities reopened their classrooms to students, Vault released its latest rankings of the most prestigious accounting firms in the U.S. The rankings are based on Vault's annual accounting survey, which asks accounting professionals to rate other firms (they couldn't rank their own) in terms of prestige. This year, although the Big Four again held the top slots, a different firm ranked No. 1.

PricewaterhouseCoopers returned to the top spot after ranking No. 2 last year. Professionals who took Vault’s accounting survey called PwC “the dean of public accounting” and “the best of the Big Four.”

PwC edged out fellow Big Four firm Ernst & Young, which rose a spot to No. 2; although respondents told us that E&Y is “a great firm with a great reputation” whose professionals are “intelligent and aggressive,” they added that the firm “works employees to the ground” and its culture can be “stuffy.”

Deloitte, which fell from the top of the prestige rankings (it was last year’s No. 1 firm) to No. 3. this year, can also be a tough place to work. Respondents called it a “sweatshop” and “pretentious,” despite its “strong reputation” and it being known as “an industry leader.”

Picking up fourth place was perennial last-of-the-Big Four-pack in the U.S., KPMG. Although KPMG is certainly “one of the best public accounting firms,” it’s “behind the times,” and its reputation has been “tarnished by tax schemes.”

Beyond the Big Four (and top four), big movers included Eisner, Amper Politziner & Mattia, and Rothstein Kass. Eisner, a “very reputable,” “Northeast power,” jumped seven spots in the rankings to No. 10, while the “well respected,” “up and coming” Amper rose eight places to No. 13. Rothstein Kass, known as a “top firm for hedge funds,” jumped seven places to No. 16.

For the complete prestige rankings and Vault’s quality of life rankings (survey respondents were also asked to rate their own firms on everything from compensation and hours to overall diversity and business outlook), follow this link.


Filed Under: Finance
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