More Accounting Tricks

The Nation, May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

More Accounting Tricks


Since the fall of the House of Enron, Republicans have been polishing their populist patter. George W. Bush cast aside his patron, Enron CEO Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay, and proclaimed himself the champion of executive rectitude. When the Corporate and Auditing Accountability Act passed in the House, Republican Richard Baker crowed, "We have taken action. We have stood up to Wall Street."

This crowd has no shame. The bill--which lobbyists for big-five accounting firm Deloitte and Touche praised for not going "overboard"--fails to ban accountants from peddling consulting work to the companies they audit, fails to shut the revolving door between accountants and the companies they audit and fails to create an accounting oversight board with subpoena power and independence. As Representative John LaFalce noted, "The opportunity to enact meaningful reform had been passed, eluded and avoided."

The House pension bill was even more disgraceful. As Representative George Miller noted, it "doesn't deal with the lessons of Enron." It doesn't put employees on the boards of their pension funds, doesn't guard workers against biased investment advice and doesn't require immediate notification of large stock sales by high-level executives. Worse, it carves a huge new loophole in pension protections, and as Daniel Halperin, a pension law expert at Harvard Law School, notes, it will "basically gut" current rules that protect average and low-wage workers. After Enron, where twenty-eight executives walked off with more than $1 billion while workers watched their retirement savings vanish, the Republican version of reform will make it easier for the big guys to pocket lavish benefits while the workers get stiffed. …

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