U.S. Vows Tougher, Faster Force To Fight White-Collar Crime

By Agence-France Presse The new U.S. corporate watchdog chief, William Donaldson, promised Feb. 28 to create a tougher, faster, more agile force to fight white-collar crime. "In recent years, the U.S. military has had to evolve into a much more efficient force: quicker, more agile and more pro-active," he said, 10 days after becoming Securities and Exchange Commission chairman. "My hope is that the SEC can go develop a similar new approach to our mission -- that we can play offense more often, be more proactive and anticipate the problems we may face." "As chairman, I hope to challenge corporate America to look beyond rules, regulations and laws and look to the principles upon which sound business is based," Donaldson told the Practicing Law Institute at a meeting in Washington, D.C. "In order to restore their trust, American investors must see businesses shift from constantly searching for loopholes and skating up to the line of legally acceptable behavior," he said. "They must see a new respect for honesty, integrity, accountability and for the good of shareholders not only an obsession with the bottom line at any cost." Donaldson, a former investment banker, is seeking to restore investor confidence after a slew of corporate accounting scandals, including at energy giant Enron Corp. and telecoms group WorldCom Inc. The rash of new corporate scandals appears to have died down in the United States since the SEC, under previous chairman Harvey Pitt, introduced rules last year requiring corporate chiefs to swear to the accuracy of their accounts. But in Europe, Dutch food giant Royal Ahold NV this week announced that it discovered more than $500 million in overstatements of income at its U.S. Food Service division. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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