Once when driving in the Midwest, I saw an ad for one of the local hamburger joints that carried a simple advertising message targeted toward its true audience: It encouraged children to "scream until dad stops the car."
Which goes to show that if you scream loud enough, you just may get what you want – or even better, something you need.
Last week the Senate, without any appreciable trace of measurable debate, gave us something we needed — a series of tough measures to curb and also punish corporate fraud.
The Senate had apparently heard the screams of the American people who have had enough of carnival barkers posing as chief executives, and decided to vote on more draconian measures to eliminate corporate and accounting fraud than had been proposed in the previous months.
Their constituencies had simply grown weary of seeing confidence men attired in Brooks Brothers and Savile Row suits — convicted of swindling investors or submitting fraudulent earnings reports — getting six months in a "Club Fed" to work on their backhand.
Contrast that to the penalties levied in most states for stealing a car.
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain wants to go even farther, calling for an unconditional ban on accounting firms performing any types of consulting services for their audit clients coupled with a new law that proposed separating investment banking from research and other investment services.
The real battle over corporate reform however, may begin in August between the Senate and the House which earlier this year passed a far softer reform bill, one bereft of criminal penalties and less stringent than the one sponsored by Senate Banking Committee chairman Paul Sarbanes, D.-Md.
The House Bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Oxley, R.-Ohio, is the one favored by the Big Four accounting firms and the American Institute of CPAs.
The Senate vote as well as McCain’s oratory came just a day after President George W. Bush delivered a speech on Wall Street calling for a "new era of integrity in corporate America."
Bush said he will ask Congress for an additional $100 million in the coming year to give the Securities and Exchange Commission the ability to enforce the law, an inarguable request if his stance toward restoring investor faith and corporate credibility is to have at least a fighting chance.
Hard-working Americans have been screaming long before even the Savings & Loan crisis that something has to be done. Apparently, people are finally listening.
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