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Confidence Is the Victim

July 13, 2002

Re "Business Scandals Force GOP to Consider Broader Reforms," July 8: What a terrible dilemma politicians of both parties face as a result of recent business scandals: Do too little and you alienate millions of investors (i.e., voters); do too much and you alienate fat-cat contributors who funnel millions of dollars into your campaigns.

Whatever legislation results from the seemingly endless corporate scandals will be insufficient if it does not include provisions to prosecute, convict and imprison executives who commit and abet fraud against investors and employees. Additionally, provision should be made to confiscate their ill-gotten gains from excessive salaries, bonuses and insider stock trades and redistribute them to their victims. These people are no less criminal than those who take money at gunpoint. It boggles the mind that such scam artists can walk away from their crimes enriched and free simply because they have political connections and can use their ill-gotten gains to hire the best attorneys and buy the legislative protection they desire.

The historical silliness of allowing the rich to become obscenely richer at the expense of the poor should be stopped. Where are Robin Hood and Teddy Roosevelt now that we need them?

Wayne D. Kerr

La Crescenta

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I have now read at least three articles in The Times where corporate fraud, tax evasion, insider trading or other forms of plain thievery were described as "shenanigans," most recently in "Why We Love to Souffle Martha" (Commentary, July 7). That's like saying Nixon got into some "mischief" with Watergate.

Don't let reporters or commentators trivialize malfeasance with a term that in my dictionary is defined as "prankishness: 'Halloween shenanigans.' " These are crimes, or at a minimum, alleged crimes. Call them what they are.

Garrett Soden

Pasadena

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With tears in my eyes I sold today all the mutual funds that I've held since I retired nine years ago. When terrorists destroyed the twin towers and the market took a plunge, I thought it was my patriotic duty not to sell. I could have lost all my money and I wouldn't have had a regret. As of late, though, I've begun to feel like a patsy and decided not to be left holding the bag by the corporate America bandits. I've had it--goodbye.

Lizzie Johnson

Pinon Hills, Calif.

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When in the blue blazes is someone in the government or the administration going to start talking up the state of the economy and Wall Street? Why can't the president, vice president or some well-known, recognized member of Congress stand up and use his "bully pulpit" to start encouraging the American public to reverse the downward spiral on Wall Street?

I don't know about others, but I have already lost at least 25% of my IRA/401(k) retirement savings in the past 18 months. Wouldn't a little pep talk from someone in authority help restore faith in our economy? So many of us have saved for years only now to find our investments bleeding to death. All we hear about is doom and gloom, war and terrorism. People are just afraid to invest their money. Maybe we need something like the war-bonds drives of World War II to inspire people to start building the economy again.

Richard Barber

Orange

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It has been suggested that the solution to the problem of lack of investor confidence in the stock market lies in the shaky reports by the auditors. At present, we have the auditors hired by and responsible only to the corporations they are supposed to audit. Enron paid Andersen $52 million in consulting fees in 2000. Do you expect an unbiased audit when Andersen is dependent on Enron's engagement for the following year's audit?

The stock exchange should assign the auditing firm and bill through dues to the corporations. The auditors should report directly to the stock exchange and thereby to the stockholders. This would give a degree of independence to the auditors, and consequently we could expect a greater degree of integrity. As a retired auditor, I say we must have independence for a fair and revealing audit. It seems to me that this is the simplest way to deal with a difficult situation. The corporations will fight it with all they have, but that simply endorses the validity of the idea.

Art Chesluk

Santa Monica

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Before I retired from being president of Frontier Savings in Lodi, Calif., many years ago, I was often asked to give lectures on how to read a financial statement. All my instructions started with the following: "A financial statement is like a bikini bathing suit. What it reveals is interesting ... what it conceals is vital!"

It is as true today as it was so many years ago.

Dan Levin

Los Angeles

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The terrorist organizations bent on destroying our country are going about it the wrong way. The corporate book-cooking and rampant "greedmeistering" are doing their job for them quite nicely.

Peter Isaacson

Hacienda Heights

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