Congress deliberates corporate ethics bill

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy is urging congressional leaders to pass a comprehensive corporate reform bill before the August recess. Leahy says the measure is needed to help restore consumer confidence in the national economy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In the past few weeks, responding to corporate accounting scandals involving Enron, WorldCom and several other large businesses, both the House an the Senate have passed their own versions of bills that are designed to deal with corporate ethics and responsibilities. Both bills establish consistent accounting procedures for corporations and they include criminal penalties for executives who try to deceive investors.

Senator Patrick Leahy is cosponsor of the Senate bill and is also a member of the conference committee that is working to resolve the differences between the two chambers over this legislation. With the stock market reeling in the past few weeks, Lehy says it’s critical for Congress to enact a comprehensive bill in the near future so that investors can trust the financial information that they receive from companies:

(Leahy) “Is it making money? Is it losing money? Does it really have assets, or doesn’t it? You wouldn’t have the Enron ponzi schemes or the Haliburton fraud or some other things that have taken place. And it would also make sure that some of these executives who are getting $30 million and $40 million and $100 million a year actually have to show where the money is coming from and why they can claim they earned it.”

(Kinzel) Leahy cautions that this legislation will not solve all of the country’s economic problems. He is also urging President Bush to repeal many of the tax cuts for wealthier people that were enacted last year:

(Leahy) “And I think there are some people even at the White House who realize it was a bad, bad mistake politically. They don’t know how to get out of it. Frankly, I’d tell – if I was giving advice – I’d tell the president that the American public would probably rally around him if he just stood up and said, ‘Look – I made a bad mistake and now let’s correct it.'”

(Kinzel) If negotiations between the House and the Senate go well, it’s possible that the House could vote on the corporate ethics legislation by Thursday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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