This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
Last week, a committee released proposals to make America's publicly traded
companies more competitive. The Committee on Capital Markets Regulation says
costly and complex rules hurt the position of the United States.
The committee is a private group of 22 leaders from areas including
business, finance, law and accounting. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson praised
the committee when it was announced in September.
Mr. Paulson has recently warned of the danger to American competitiveness
from, in his words, an "ever-expanding rulebook." He says the costs of rules
must be considered against the benefits. He is expected to hold a conference on
this issue next year.
Hal Scott of Harvard Law School is the committee director. He
says the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has created needless costs, especially
for smaller businesses.
Congress wrote the law after accountants failed to uncover financial crimes
at several big companies. Some, like Enron and WorldCom, went out of business.
Investors lost millions.
Sarbanes-Oxley created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The law
also holds business leaders legally responsible for their company's financial
Among other things, the law requires public companies to report yearly
on their financial reporting controls. The committee says this rule, in the
first year, cost businesses an average of more than 4 million dollars.
But some say proposals by the committee would weaken shareholder protections.
For example, the report calls for limits on the amount of money that investors
could recover from companies involved in wrongdoing.
Former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers says the committee was too
centered on the issue of competitiveness. And New York Governor-elect Eliot
Spitzer says he will fight the proposals.
Still, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox wants his
agency to reconsider some rules based on their costs.
The World Economic Forum this year rated the United States sixth in
competitiveness, behind smaller countries like Finland and Switzerland. But it
was first among the largest economies.
Yet the committee says only five percent of the value of the world's newly
offered stock last year was raised in the United States. In 2000, it was 50
And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter.
I'm Bob Doughty.
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