Ernst & Young is set to provide a "blueprint" to the Dutch Bar which it is hoped will provide a framework for an acceptable relationship between accounting firms and law firms in the Netherlands.
Price Waterhouse and Arthur Andersen have been involved in legal wrangles with the Dutch Bar over its resistance to the setting up of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs).
Ernst & Young's blueprint will be based on an agreement with the Den Bosch Bar in the south of the Netherlands.
Under the agreement, Ernst & Young was allowed to form an alliance between its tax practice, Moret Ernst & Young, and Eindhoven-based law firm Banning Van Kemenade & Holland. The key to the agreement was that no relationship was allowed between Ernst & Young's main accounting practice and the law firm.
Hans van Gijzen, director of business law at Moret Ernst & Young, said the Den Bosch Bar allowed the alliance because it agreed to maintain three separate partnerships for the accounting firm, the tax practice and the law firm. Ernst & Young approached the Dutch Bar because it wanted to use the same approach with other regional bars. Moret Ernst & Young's desired association with Utrecht firm Van Benthem & Keulen is being considered by the Utrecht Bar.
The regional bars have the final say in allowing the setting up of associations. Frederik Heemskerk, general secretary of the Dutch Bar, said he was hopeful the blueprint could be used elsewhere, but warned that not every accounting firm was set up in the same way.
Paul Downing, head of Price Waterhouse's European legal operations, welcomed the possibility of an agreed position and said his firm would be "delighted" to see the issue resolved.