Cultural Optimization:  Making Mergers Successful

The Rational Optimist
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How to begin successful post-merger integration strategies before the contracts are written.

By R. Peter Fontaine
Newgate Law

Rereading The Rational Optimist by British author Matt Ridley revived my belief in “cultural optimization” when it comes to accounting firm acquisitions. Ridley’s perspective is quite simple – over the millennia, human cultures have only progressed when the interaction between societies was collaborative.  People are better-off today because of the ancestral exchange and integration of ideas, language, beliefs, skills, customs, habits, technology and social structure; rather than as a result of isolation or cultural dominance and extinction.

MORE PETER FONTAINE:  What to Ponder Before Issuing a Letter of Intent  |  Why Due Diligence is Done   |  The Four Ways 'Non-Competes' #FAIL in the Social Media Age  |

While Ridley’s notion of optimizing cultural differences makes perfect sense, it does not seem to be regularly applied in the context of accounting firm M&A activity.

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Peter Fontaine

R. Peter Fontaine is founder and managing partner of NewGate Law. NewGate provides legal and risk management services exclusively to the accounting industry. Peter has served as chief legal counsel for accounting firms for nearly two decades. Before launching NewGate, he was general counsel at McGladrey. He was also a partner and assistant general counsel at Arthur Andersen, where he managed the legal support for its global assurance and business consulting practices. Peter has extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, partnership and employee agreements, professional standards, regulatory matters, international firm operations, and litigation and risk management. He can be reached at

About the Author

Peter Fontaine, a CPA Trendlines expert authoris the founder and managing partner of NewGate Law. Before launching NewGate in 2012, he was the general counsel at McGladrey and assistant general counsel at Arthur Andersen. Peter works exclusively with CPA firms. He is also a contributor CPA Firm Partner Agreement Essentials and to the CPA Trendlines publication Making Mergers Work: Special Report [eBook]. He has served as chief legal counsel for professional services firms for more than two decades. Before establishing NewGate Law, Peter held the general counsel post at McGladrey LLP, and was responsible for the company’s legal, compliance, risk management, and government relations functions. Peter was also a partner at Arthur Andersen LLP, where he managed the legal support for its global business consulting practice. Prior to entering the accounting industry, Peter had a lengthy career at Maynard, Massachusetts based Digital Equipment Corporation, and was general counsel of its professional services division. Peter is an honors graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and the New England School of Law, both in the Boston area. Peter is a member of the American Bar Association, Association of Corporate Counsel and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Peter’s areas of expertise include:
  • Accountancy regulation
  • Acquisitions & divestitures
  • Employment and partnership matters
  • Litigation management
  • Corporate governance
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Intellectual Property
  • International transactions
  • Marketing
Peter can be reached at pfontaine [@] here for more by Peter Fontaine