Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

PricewaterhouseCoopers records, 1891-2000 

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP,.
Phys. Desc: 
148 linear feet (98 record cartons 4 flat boxes)
Call Number: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

PricewaterhouseCoopers , one of the world's top accountancy firms, has been created in 1998 by the merger of two companies - Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand - each with historical roots going back some 150 years to the 19th century Great Britain. The collection of PWC archival materials, donated to Columbia University in 2000, traces the rise of both companies to major worldwide professional services powerhouses through mergers and business expansion. In the 1890s both companies established their presence in the United States. The American accounting as a profession was then a new undertaking with limited experience, little or no organized training facilities and practically no authoritative means of establishing and enforcing professional standards. Early founders of both firms were deeply involved in professional organizations of the time and instrumental in establishing the standards and terminology of the nascent accounting profession. By maintaining a firm stand on matters of professional ethics, and by relying on British practice and precedent, these accountants played an important role in developing American auditing standards. Influenced by market environment, legislative decisions and technological advances, Price Waterhouse & Co. and Coopers & Lybrand were, to a large extent, developing along similar lines. Price Waterhouse & Co.: In 1850 Samuel Lowell Price sets up his accounting business in London. In 1865 he was joined in partnership by William H. Holyland and an Edwin Waterhouse and by 1874 the company name changes to Price, Waterhouse & Co. In 1873, the firm conducted their first US project. The growing US practice lead to the establishment of permanent PW presence in the Western hemispere, which began with the opening of the office on 45 Broadway, New York City in 1890 by a company agent Lewis D. Jones. He was soon joined in America by William J. Caesar, who opened an office in Chicago. In 1895 the newly created Jones, Caesar & Co. was designated as an agent of Price Waterhouse. After Jones early death Arthur L. Dickinson replaced retiring Caesar as a senior partner of the American firm. The firm enjoyed solid reputation and high business volume. By the turn of the century, it built up a roster of clients which covered a wide range of industrial and commercial fields in most sections of the country. Branch offices began to open throughout the USA and then in other parts of the world: 1907 Joseph E. Sterett, an American with his own successful practice, joins the company and the American firm's name changed from Jones, Caesar, Dickinson, Wilmot & Co. to Dickinson, Wilmot & Sterret. By Dickinson's retirement as a senior partner in 1911 the firm grows large enough to need the committee structure. In 1913 the name of American firm is dropped in favor of the English name Price Waterhouse & Co. The 100 years of Price Waterhouse history in America divide into three periods, each characterized by its own problems and dilemmas (McDermott and Allen, p. 248). The first era (1890s to late 1920s) saw the Americanization of the practice and the rise of the firm around professionally automonous partners. The second era, from the early 1930s to the late 1960s marked the dominance of PW in the regulated monolithic environment in which the accounting profession then functioned. The securities laws of the early 1930s pushed the audit to the center of firms' practice. During the 'golden age' of 1950s the flow of capital to Europe led PW to establish the international firm. The same time period witnessed the start of series of mergers at home. The third era, 1970 to 1990s, saw the reformulation of the agenda in a period of radical change in both marketplace and the profession. 1982 Price Waterhouse World Firm formed. The steady absorption of the more successful local and regional practices in the Big Eight (later Big Six) accelerated. Innovations in technology resulted in changes to traditional work pattern. Shifting client base, wave of litigations, changes in service mix and additional standards, established by SEC and Congress, led to increase in overhead costs. All these factors eroded industry structure established in 1930s. Greater competitiveness led to dismantling of earlier professional prohibitions against advertizing. Price competition in audit wars, and industry mergers led Price Waterhouse, which always focues on auditing, to start admitting non-CPA's and expand management consulting services. Coopers & Lybrand: In 1854 William Cooper establishes his own practice in London, which seven years later becomes Cooper Brothers. Firm's history in the United States begins in 1898, when Robert H. Montgomery, William M. Lybrand, Adam A. Ross Jr. and his brother T. Edward Ross form Lybrand, Ross Brothers and Montgomery in Philadelphia. During the early 20th century, their offices spread around the country and then in Europe. The explosive growth ended with Great Depression that forced the firm to reorganize organizational structure, and to shift the focus from expansion toward flexible specialization, such as finding new types of services (tax services, management consulting) for exhisting clientele. In the 1930s LRB&M was enegaged by the federal government to investigate several banks and trust ocmpanies throughout the United States - the work of unprecedented magnitude, ranging from an investigation to a detailed audit followed by liquidation proceedings. After the death of Col. Montgomery in 1953, the new generation of leaders came to the fore: Alvin R. Jennings, Walter A. Staub, Philip L. Defliese, Norman E. Auerbach. Under their leadership, the firm experienced a major transformation from medium-size company, focused on auditing and primarliy national in scope, into a multinational player with a growing mix of consulting services. The boldest step was a 1957 merger between Cooper Brothers & Co (UK), McDonald, Currie and Co (Canada) and Lybrand, Ross Bros & Montgomery (US), forming Coopers & Lybrand - a truly international powerhouse, operating through 79 offices in 19 countries. 1950s also saw the addition of an autonomous line of specialization in mamagement consulting services. The company acquired more formal oragnizational structure, and continued a policy of selective mergers, including an important addition of Scovell, Vellington & Co. in 1962. In 1973 American firm adopts the name Coopers and Lybrand. Globalization and information boom led to increased interest in Knowledge Management, adding it to the existing mix of professional services. In 1990 Coopers & Lybrand merges with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in a number of countries around the world In 1998 Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand merge worldwide to become PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Scope and Contents

The collection is clearly divided into two record groups: Coopers & Lybrand archival materials and Price Waterhouse & Co. archival materials. The documents from the offices Price Waterhouse & Co. materials include original company documents, accounting books, and other records created by Price Waterhouse or the firms that have subsequently merged with it. The collection is clearly divided into two record groups: Price Waterhouse & Co. archival materials and Coopers & Lybrand archival materials. The documents from the offices Price Waterhouse & Co. materials include original company documents, accounting books, and other records created by Price Waterhouse or the firms that have subsequently merged with it. The group further contains papers of George O. May (led the company from 1911 to 1926), files from the office of Herman W. Bevis (led the company from 1961 to 1969), company publications and library of book related to accounting. This group also includes the files of historical research conducted by Winthrop Group for Centennial of Price Waterhouse in America (1990), oral history tapes and transcripts, videos and digital materials. Coopers and Lybrand materials include original company documents, accounting books, and other records created by Lybrand, Ross Brothers & Montgomery, Coopers Brothers and other firms that have subsequently merged to form Coopers and Lybrand. A large collection of printed materials contains first editions, manuals, broshures and periodicals. Also included are files and audio recordings of James Mahon (LRB&M National Director of Practice Development), and files from the office of Catherine "Millie" McGovern, C&L manager and event coordinator. Numerous audiovisual materials include photos, video documentaries and oral history records. This record group also includes historical research conducted by the Business History Group for CL centennial (1998).