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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Bush on business: Are you convinced?
President George W Bush has called for financial executives to be jailed if they deliberately falsify accounts.

In a speech to Wall Street executives the president pledged to crack down on corporate misconduct, saying the days of US firms "cooking the books" are over.

The Bush administration are aiming to re-establish public trust in big American companies, severely damaged by recent accounting scandals involving companies including Enron, Worldcom and Merck.

Mr Bush was forced onto the defensive on Monday when asked by reporters about his own business past as an oil company director and an eight-month delay in reporting the sale of shares he held. He dismissed the accusations as "recycled stuff".

Are you convinced by Mr Bush's ultimatum to corporate America? Did he address your concerns? How far will it go towards restoring your faith in big business?

This Talking Point was suggested by Greg, USA:

"Can there be faith in President Bush to prosecute corporate criminals?"

If you have any suggestions for Talking Points,

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The US economy has proven to be resilient

Roger K, USA
Does anyone realise that all this "cooking the books" went on during the Clinton years? The fact that this corporate corruption was disclosed during Bush's term does not make it Bush's fault. Also, this was a problem of not enforcing existing laws, not a problem of not having enough laws. The US economy has proven to be resilient, and it will rebound, as it always has.
Roger K, USA

US president Bush has been pressurising small, developing countries into creating transparent and accountable leaderships. I suspect that a lot of people from such countries would derive great satisfaction from being able to say to him, "Clean out your own backyard first".
Sanjeev, Canada

I can't remember the last time I had confidence in a big business company. You can't get around them as they control much of what is on offer regarding food, fuels, communications and many other products, but do I trust them? No. I much prefer to find local shops run by my neighbours rather than any high street multinational. But again, there is no going around them sometimes.
Victor D, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The real question is will the shareholders do anything? Who put the cheating CEOs in? Who set up and approved their compensation? Who is whining now? The greed goes ALL the way up, past the CEOs to the people who put them there. Bush and Congress can help, but as long as we ignore bad news and pay CEOs to lie to us, we can expect to hear lies.
Jeff, USA

Bush is a sincere man

Eric, USA
Big business, corruption and fraud has been going on for years in this country. Just because Bush is the president when all of this comes out to the media doesn't make it his fault. I really think this is just the beginning. How many other businesses cook their books? I bet a whole lot more. I think Bush is a sincere man and he will help to put an end to this evil.
Eric, USA

We live in a world surrounded by conflicts of interest. The CEOs are concerned about their multimillion dollars in stock options; our politicians are consumed by dreams of re-election and the money to support to their re-election. So who do you look to take care of the little people and their little money?
G. Anschuetz, USA

We all should encourage the companies with which we choose to do business to act more ethically, especially when it comes to honest bookkeeping. Those of you reading this commentary are probably in a decision-making role, whether a large or small company, public or private. Take it upon yourself to set the moral and ethical example. Instead of somehow blaming Mr Bush for this fiasco, when was the last time you asked yourself," Is there anything I can do to help?"
Scott, Florida, USA

I'm fed up with this twisted value system

Misha Taylor, UK
Integrity is not exactly one of the President's strengths. Unfortunately, he hasn't caught up with reality on any level. He will back business to the hilt, regardless of the corruption and lies, the pollution and the exploitation. He has shown in his conduct following Sept 11 that human rights and political or personal integrity do not feature in his repertoire. I'm fed up with this twisted value system that strives for more and more money and power as an ultimate goal; it is destroying all of us.
Misha Taylor, UK

I find it rather droll that we expect a man whose own stock sales and ties to big business are so shady can even speak of corporate responsibility. That aside, however, President Bush's proposals would seem ineffectual at best, and offer no real solutions. A change in corporate culture and real public accountability is needed, not more empty words from our oily Texan head of state.
Paul, United States

The chickens are roosting and it will take much more direct effort by both the US administration and the global business community to recover investor confidence quickly. It looks as though it will be long and slow road back.
Graham Land, Croydon, UK

The question we should be asking is why has it taken the collapse of two large corporations before any action is taken. The horse has bolted. If you believe that Bush is run by big business, then presumably he wants it to be healthy, robust and producing lots of money. He realises that these corporate frauds are a seriously threat to confidence in the markets, and thus investment in US corporations.
Jonathan Michaud, USA (Ex-UK)

President Bush is the product of big business. To believe that his administration would seriously take steps to quash the greed of their corporate "buddies" would be foolish. I believe his threats are merely rhetoric and behind closed doors, those who outwardly cower from his threats are giggling alongside him.
Andrew, Canada

As long as executives' pay is linked to stock price they will do all they can to inflate that price.

Kuhan, UK
Surely Mr Bush has failed to address the wider issue of executive compensation. For as long as executives' pay is linked to stock price they will do all they can to inflate that price. The market itself is also at fault; with institutional investors happy if the price is going up and they're getting good earnings without examining the fundamentals. He also has failed to point the finger at the auditors. An audit is supposed to be a 'formal examination of an organisation financial situation'. The word audit comes from the latin 'auditus' - the act of hearing. In corporate America people only listen to the sound of dollars...
Kuhan, UK

If he would first answer questions on how he and Cheney were involved in the entire Enron collapse, it would be possible to think that he is serious. But I think his hands are far too dirty as far as US corporations are concerned. The current White House staff is far too deeply involved in the business sector to clean it up honestly.
Anonymous, Germany

I trust Bush as our president to provide leadership in this time of scandal, but I wouldn't go as far as to look to him for the answers to our problems. It goes much deeper than that. A lot of these accounting practices began to take shape during Clinton's watch, but I don't blame him either. It has to do with greed, not who is president or head of the SEC. What we must do is take our existing regulations concerning corporate and accounting practices and give them a boost with some new oversight power.
Chris, Texas USA

Does anyone really believe that big business will suddenly be staffed with scrupulous people?

Chris, US
Does anyone really believe that big business will suddenly be staffed with scrupulous people? Individuals go into business to make money, and when push comes to shove, they don¿t care if it's off someone else's back or at the expense of another "sucker" (and often push doesn't have to come to shove). Let's all have a reality check. Caveat emptor, and all that.
Chris, US

Even if Bush gets Congress to legislate what he's proposing, the other changes he wants won't happen. No one can force a corporation of any kind to drastically curtail benefits to executives or Board members, this cannot be legislated. There would have to be an across-the-board reduction in perks and benefits for company leaders, levelling the playing field. No one will take jobs with that level of responsibility for much lower compensation unless all the companies agree to this. But increasing SEC powers to include enforcement would help achieve the ends that Bush is talking about. It would take very many years but would be worth the effort.
T.P. Bland, USA

There are no new substantial penalties for corporate profiteers. All George W. Bush has done is to basically rearrange the deck chairs on the (Wall Street) Titanic.
Brian M., Canada

These scandals started before Bush became President. Blaming a President or Congressperson is not realistic. The ones at fault are the CEO's who lied and cheated their investors.
Randall, USA

He would never do anything to hurt big business

V Gill, UK
Mr Bush is where he is today because of only two things - his name and the help he got from "corporate America". He knows it and they know it. He would never do anything to hurt big business. Any new laws that come into place will surely be toothless tigers.
V Gill, UK

It doesn't matter whether I'm convinced or not. What matters is whether or not the market is convinced. If large institutional investors continue to believe that corporate balance sheets are suspect because the laws and regulations aren't strict enough or they aren't being enforced properly, then the market won't bounce back, the economy will suffer, and George Bush's re-election will be in jeopardy. There's an old saying in American politics - Americans vote with their pocketbooks.
Mark, USA

I trust Bush about as far as I can throw him. However there is one idea that he and his advisors have mentioned that interest me. It has been suggested that CEOs be required to sign off on the financial statements of their company, and then be held liable for any gross impropriety. I'd like to see this perpetuated to the entire "head shed", to include CFO's and the like. In the event of a catastrophic error, somebody will go to jail. That is what you call motivation.
Anon, USA

I am not convinced. He's shown a tendency to speak roughly and carry a very small stick. I've already written to my Congressman, my two Senators, and President Bush, letting them know that rhetoric will not be enough this time. Either something changes or they will. The only problem is that it's hard to threaten today's politicians while most of my fellow Americans don't seem to care enough to force their hand.
Michael Boh, California, USA


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See also:

09 Jul 02 | Americas
03 Jul 02 | Business
08 Jul 02 | Business
02 Jul 02 | Business
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