A marriage is not just a spouse. It's also the mother-in-law, the patches and the corpses in the cupboards. Mazars knows something about it. In the United States, the French audit and consultancy firm, which has little reason to mobilize the interest of crowds, is still regularly in the news. For a simple reason. By marrying the American Weiser, in 2010, she inherited one of his clients: Donald Trump (read box below).
When we pronounce the name of the ogre of the White House before the CEO of Mazars, Hervé Hélias, we feel annoyed. He would prefer that we speak of another news: in July, Mazars announced an alliance with five North American firms (16,000 employees), which suddenly propels French into the big leagues. Mazars, suddenly, is more than a quaint little quiver that looks down on the Big Four band that dominates the market: Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC.
Born in 1945 in Rouen, the company has been internationalized since the 2000s, often accompanying customers who also moved abroad. Until then, nothing very sexy. But the interesting thing about Mazars is how she managed to transmute a quasi-family culture, imbued with the modesty that befits the accountant. “There is a family spirit, many partners have been there for twenty or thirty years,” says Hervé Hélias.
Certainly, but in his office in New York, Victor Wahba, the boss of Mazars USA, said that “Mazars does not see itself as a French firm, our culture had to evolve and is marked by inclusion and diversity – think globally, act globally “. He himself was born in Egypt. Moreover, Mazars customers do not see their accountants as Frenchies. “Out of nearly 1,100 associates representing 90 nationalities, only 170 are French, barely 15%,” confirms Hélias.
With its allies, the leading French integrated auditing and consulting group is starting to weigh heavily: 40,000 employees worldwide, including 4,000 in China (as in France), 800 in Brazil, 300 in Australia, 17,000 in the US United. Growth is fast, with a turnover of 1.6 billion euros (+ 8.7% over one year), but it is expensive. Twentieth-century auditing is an increasingly technological affair: robotization of operations, investment in artificial intelligence capable of detecting accounting anomalies … And of course, specialized specialization in the professions, not to mention the “flying firefighter” teams dispatched within 48 hours, like the one that identified 11 million euros of expenses related to Carlos Ghosn.
All this is expensive, but Mazars is able to borrow large sums without problems. For now, “we have absolutely no intention of bringing an investor to the capital,” insists the CEO. This would be wrong with the trademark Mazars, which plays the tailor-made against the ready-to-wear Big Four. “The advantage of a company like ours is the personal attention, the detachment of the best talents, the pragmatism”, indicates Victor Wahba.
This does not prevent to play in the big leagues. In May, thunderbolt: Goldman Sachs chooses Mazars to audit from 2021 its European operations based in London, previously entrusted to PwC. “This is the end of the myth that only the Big Four are capable of auditing very large and complex companies,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan, at the University of Michigan. Financial Times, who devoted two articles to this contract that would bring in $ 5 million. “In the United States, this announcement has had a very positive effect for the Mazars brand,” confirms Victor Wahba. So much so that in finance, “we have plenty of other deals in the pipeline.”
Period of opportunities
For a long time, Mazars has experienced the crumbs of the Big Four: in the United States, more than nine major companies out of ten are audited by one of these giants. A weight that has become so overwhelming that customers are rebelling. In the United Kingdom, a law under discussion provides for a double audit, one of the two firms not to belong to the Big Four. In the Netherlands, another HQ of multinationals, the authorities have adopted a very strict regulatory approach to auditing. Add to that that the Big Four now favor the more profitable advice, while the audit is the strong point of Mazars, all the opportunities are reunited for the French is no longer content with crumbs. Even if you have to fight with average weights like BDO or Grant Thornton. “The market needs diversity and new actors, says Hervé Hélias, we want to be.” Little but strong.
Donald Trump, a bulky client in heritage
Mazars comes out the same time: society will obey Justice. And every time, Donald Trump's lawyers put the stop with appeal: no question of communicating to the Democrats of Congress the audits of the Trump Organization, the Trump family, the Donald J. Trump Foundation or the Eric Trump Foundation , all made by Mazars. Last episode, dated October 7: while the President of the United States refuses for months to submit his tax returns, a federal judge in New York has authorized access by Justice. Prosecutor Cyrus Vance claims Mazars these statements in the context of an investigation into a payment made to the pornographic actress Stormy Daniels to buy his silence on an alleged link with the US president. At Mazars USA, we remain discreet. Just his leader, Victor Wahba, says that “the Trump Organization and the Trump Family have been customers for many decades, a time that goes back to Donald Trump's father.” Trump's auditor was an American company, Weiser, allied with Mazars in the early 2010s before becoming Mazars USA. Donald Bender, who has been running the business audits of Donald Trump and his family for many years, is still employed by Mazars.
Philippe Boulet-Gercourt (correspondent in New York)