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A Brief History of the Big 4 Public Accounting Firms

By:   |   Jul 08, 2018   |   Views: 25   |   Comments: 0

Entering a Big 4 Firm is a lot like entering a secret society or fraternity.  There are traditions and secrets that are shared by the members and passed down to new recruits.  This feeling of comradery and heritage is one of the most special parts of working for a Big 4 firm and what separates the experience from working for a regional or local firm. 



As you begin your journey it will do you good to learn a bit of the history of these firms.  Knowing where these firms have been will help you understand the role that you will be taking on as a new recruit and the legacy you will continue. 



While you will most likely not be held responsible for this information in an interview, learning these basic facts will provide you with an easy way to impress the Big 4.



PricewaterhouseCoopers (aka PwC, €œP Dubs)



The history of PwC dates back to the 19th century London.  Samuel Lowell Price, the son of a Bristol stone potter, was born in 1821.  Entering the accounting profession at an early age, Price was a member of several smaller firms before striking out on his own as a sole practitioner. 



Meanwhile, a young English accountant, Edwin Waterhouse (b. 1841), was making a name for himself.  The son of lucrative mill-owning parents, and brother to Alfred Waterhouse, a prominent London architect, Edwin rose quickly in the ranks to the London accounting elite.



Around this time, another accountant by the name of William Cooper established a rival firm in London with his three brothers.  Across the ocean in the U.S., William Lybrand and others created yet another firm.  These firms merged in 1957 into what would be known as Coopers and Lybrand.



Price and Waterhouse joined forces in 1874 to create Price, Waterhouse & Co.  The firm became well-known as one of the finest in London and eventually opened their first U.S. office in 1890 in New York.  The firm began to establish separate partnerships across the globe.



In 1998 Coopers & Lybrand merged with Price Waterhouse to form, PricewaterhouseCoopers.  The firm now employs over 146,000 people in 150 countries and had worldwide revenues of $28 billion in fiscal year 2008.



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