Seven consultants who left Arthur Andersen & Co. and set up a competing business have filed suit accusing their former employer of trying to destroy their business.

The suit, filed in chancery division of Cook County Circuit Court, also contends Andersen has failed to pay the seven former employees money owed them for their work at the tax-audit and consulting firm.Six of the seven plaintiffs left Andersen last October to form The Information Consulting Group, which competes with Andersen in computer system-integration and information consulting. The seventh - ICG Chief Executive Officer Gresham Brebach, left Andersen in July.

"Andersen has embarked on a deliberate campaign to injure ICG," Brebach said in announcing the legal action.

"It has made false statements about ICG and has threatened to sue employees, including secretaries, who resign from Andersen and join ICG."

Andersen filed suit against ICG in October, charging that the newly formed competitor was trying to force Andersen to sell its increasingly lucrative consulting business.

But Brebach dismissed the suit as "an attempt to discredit ICG's business."

"Andersen is trying to intimidate employees who want to join us and clients who want to do business with us," he said.

"It is deeply regrettable that Andersen is attempting to stop professionals from pursuing their own career choices," Brebach said.

ICG consultants cited longstanding disputes over the structure and management of Andersen's consulting business.

They said consultants in the Andersen partnership had long been forced to take a back seat to partners in the tax-audit business. They charged tax-audit partners received the lion's share of earnings, while consulting partners were chronically undercompensated in relation to their contribution to the firm's overall income.

Andersen officials had no comment on the suit.