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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 02:48 GMT 03:48 UK
US watchdog attacks political critics
SEC chief Harvey Pitt
Harvey Pitt: Many US companies are "fundamentally sound"
Harvey Pitt, the head of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, has said "political soundbites" from the US government's opponents have exacerbated the stock market's recent woes.

"I believe that if we keep getting the political soundbites that some few have been trying to perpetuate on the investing public, there's no telling how low the markets could go," he told BBC 2's Newsnight programme.

Mr Pitt suggested that current share values on Wall Street do not reflect the US's strong economic fundamentals.

"I believe that our economy is strong, that we have many fundamentally sound companies, that we are undertaking significant and far-reaching reform, and that the stock prices in the market will eventually reflect all the good things that are happening."

Reform pressure

US share prices have slumped in recent weeks amid deepening investor concern over the reliability of US corporate statements in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

There have been suggestions that many figures in the US administration are unlikely to push through watertight reforms of accounting procedures because of their close corporate connections.

Energy giant Enron, which went bankrupt last year following revelations that it had hidden millions of dollars in debts in a series of external financial partnerships, was one the biggest donors to President George Bush's 2000 election campaign.

Mr Pitt, a former lawyer who worked for several of the major global audit firms, was appointed SEC chief by Mr Bush in May last year.


Analysis

IN DEPTH
The Markets: 9:29 UK
FTSE 100 5760.40 -151.7
Dow Jones 11380.99 -119.7
Nasdaq 2243.78 -28.9
FTSE delayed by 15 mins, Dow and Nasdaq by 20 mins
Launch marketwatch
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