Duke Energy ( DUK) has hired some new number-crunchers -- including two former Arthur Andersen partners -- to keep track of the company books. The North Carolina energy merchant, revered as a reputable leader of an otherwise tarnished industry, on Friday announced three senior-level additions to an accounting staff led by Controller Keith Butler. The company said it is simply expanding staff, rather than replacing outgoing accountants, and that no bookkeeping problems exist.
"It's no big reorganization," assured Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless. Despite the market's anxiety about anything related to accounting, investors appeared to agree, knocking just 20 cents off the stock in morning trading. Duke, which has rallied in recent weeks despite questions about its earnings quality, remains one of the industry's few blue-chip plays as a result of its solid balance sheet. Dwight Jacobs joins Duke as the newly created managing director of corporate accounting and reporting, responsible for overseeing both internal and external financial statements. Jacobs previously worked 14 years for Arthur Andersen, the past two as a partner of the firm. Andersen was considered a top-tier accounting firm until some of its biggest clients -- starting with Enron -- recently began succumbing to bankruptcy after revealing massive accounting irregularities. J. Danny Wiles, another addition at Duke, also has a history at Andersen. Wiles worked for the former Big Five accounting firm for 17 years, the last three as a partner in Chicago. He will now serve as Duke's managing director of accounting research and business unit support. Duke's final new addition is Daniel Zakerski, who is departing from bankrupt Kmart and has seven years' experience as an audit manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Zakerski is Duke's new director of financial systems.