... The president proposed to double the maximum prison term for mail fraud and wire fraud statutes often used in cases of corporate wrongdoing to 10 years. He also wants to strengthen laws that criminalize document shredding and other forms of obstruction of justice.
He seeks a $100 million increase in the SEC's budget for next year. That is on top of a $20 million increase the administration sought earlier this year so that the agency can hire 100 new enforcement officers.
The president also has created a new corporate fraud task force, to be headed by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and to include investigators from the Justice Department and other agencies.
Not unpredictably, Democrats on Capitol Hill complained that the Bush plan did not go far enough. ... Senate Democrats are understandably disappointed that the president did not embrace the more worthy provisions of an accounting reform bill sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Paul Sarbanes, D-Md. They include creation of an independent regulatory board to oversee accounting; also, importantly, a ban on firms acting as consultants for corporations for which they already serve as accountants.
Corporate reform is much too important an issue to be exploited by either Republicans or Democrats for partisan political purposes. For while the two parties bicker over which is more beholden to corporate America and which can be more trusted to prevent future accounting scandals, investor confidence continues to wane, the stock indexes continue to decline, and the nation's economic recovery grows more fragile.
-- The San Diego Union-Tribune
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