Table: Post-Enron Reforms: What's Real and What's Not
The prospects for congressional action.
-- Employees can sell stock from company matching programs sooner. Count on it.
-- Employers can hire outside advisers to guide workers on investing their 401(k) cash. A lock.
-- Employees get to elect trustees for 401(k)s and pension plans. Unlikely to pass.
-- Faster reporting of all insider stock trades. Excellent. Could happen in 2003.
-- Suing corporate officers for financial chicanery becomes easier. Dubious. Conservatives oppose.
-- Companies must book stock options as an expense. Good. Has bipartisan backing.
FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE & TRANSPARENCY
-- Closer SEC scrutiny of financial reports. Certain. Commissioners have gotten the message.
-- Investors get more company data and faster. Likely. Treasury Dept. will embrace the idea, but the scope of the rules remains vague.
-- Crackdown on corporate tax shelters. Dicey. The worst may go, but new mutants will emerge.
-- New private-sector board to probe accounting failures and discipline auditors. Certain.
-- Accountants can't consult for audit clients. Good. Big Five are already splitting the roles.
-- Accounting rulemaker FASB overhauled to cut industry and political clout. Iffy. Republicans prefer market-based reforms.
-- Banning soft-money donations to political parties. Some measure likely. But corporate cash will find new roads to politicians' pockets.