Monday, October 30, 2006

Arthur Andersen needs our help!

The poor and mistreated in this country have a new public face: Arthur Andersen. The giant accounting firm, which was convicted of obstructing justice in 2002 for its role in the Enron fraud, now needs our help. Yes, we can end corporate losses in this country! Doesn’'t quite have the same impact as “I have a dream” or “give peace a chance,” does it? Cut me some slack, it’s hard to sing the praises of a company that helped Enron screw investors and employees out of millions.

Large corporations already have huge legal and financial advantages in this country, most of which stem from our comically lax rules about campaign finance. Even if you ignore the worst instances of out-and-out bribery, it still follows that the biggest campaign contributors get the most face time with lawmakers. As a consequence, there are tax loopholes and fat government contracts aplenty for the big-money players of the Beltway.

After the egregious scandals of a few years ago, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley act, which was aimed at limiting corporate skullduggery. It’d be wonderful if Congress could do stuff like this when it’s not an absolute political necessity.  Then again, it’d be wonderful if bacon didn’t make you fat.

The resumption of business as usual, though, appears to be imminent. The Supreme Court threw out Andersen’s conviction last year. Several corporate honchos whined to the New York Times that tough liability laws like Sarbanes-Oxley are pushing away investors through “excessive costs."

What garbage. The only real costs of Sarbanes-Oxley and other checks on corporate wrongdoing are paid by companies that break the law. The government’s job is not to make life easy for corporate elites that have shown, time and again, that they will not behave responsibly unless they are forced to.

Federal regulations aren’t the problem. It’s crooked corporations that don’t want to play by the rules.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

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