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Irvine’s White Nelson Joins Audit Firm CLA

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Irvine’s White Nelson Diehl Evans LLP, the 10th largest accounting firm in Orange County, said it will join CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, effective Nov. 1.

“CLA is the ideal fit for us,” WNDE Managing Partner Paul Treinen told the Business Journal.

“This is the best thing that will happen to our people in their careers and to our partners. It allows them to be on a very stable training platform and creates greater opportunities for advancement. It allows them mobility across the country and also allows them to define what they want to be in their career.”

WNDE counts about 140 workers, including 27 partners. Along with its Irvine headquarters, it also has an office in Carlsbad.

WNDE’s roots go back to the early 1900s; it represents more than 3,000 businesses and 3,500 individual clients. It’s known for manufacturing, distribution, professional services, retail and nonprofits, among other services.

CLA, which traces its roots to Minnesota and Wisconsin, is now the eighth largest accounting firm in the U.S.; its annual revenue exceeds $1.2 billion. The professional services firm has 6,500 employees in 120 offices nationwide, including their locations in Irvine.

In addition to audit, tax and consulting work it also offers wealth advisory and outsourcing services.

Consolidation Continues

This is the second time in the past three months that a major independent accounting firm based in Orange County has decided to join a bigger national firm from the Midwest.

In August, Squar Milner, which was Orange County’s seventh largest firm and the biggest headquartered here, decided to join Chicago’s Baker Tilly US LLP, saying it was a great opportunity to grow both nationally and worldwide. Those two firms will have 4,300 employees when they combine on Nov. 1.

After these mergers are completed, the biggest accounting firm headquartered in Orange County will be Brea-based LSL CPAs and Advisors, which has 115 of its 125 employees in Orange County.

SoCal Push

Adding the WNDE employees will about double CLA’s employee count in Southern California to more than 300 people.

“Welcoming WNDE team members broadens our Orange County presence and brings us to the San Diego area,” said Randy Wells, managing principal of CLA’s Southern California offices.

WNDE’s clients are often companies with annual revenue in the $40 million to $70 million range.

“We’re telling them that they will have the same providers, but a wider pallet” of services, Treinen said.

“This is an absolute win.”

All employees at WNDE will be joining CLA, he said. The combination may allow WNDE’s local office to expand as well, Treinen said.

“We’ll have greater access to more clients. Growth begets opportunities for staff.”

Many Similarities

WNDE has often been approached by prospective suitors over the years, Treinen said.

“CLA was interested in us because we have a lot of similarities,” he said. “They value the private sector like we do. They have a culture that is unmatched. We are a family-oriented firm. CLA is similar.”

“It was the right time because it’s about scale, risk aversion, access to resources, combining great people,” he said.

Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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