Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

Paul O'Neill heads the Treasury Department and recently toured Africa with rock star Bono of U2. He was president of International Paper Company and chairman and CEO of Alcoa.

On how his business friends feel about the current corporate scandals:

"The people who call me today are people who I would say are as stunned as I am by some of the practices that are ... reported.

"Because, at least for the crowd I dealt with, this is not how they think about what they are doing, or about how they do business.

"You know, the reforms that are being considered now, I did all these things 13 years ago at Alcoa. Not because the government told me to do it, but because it was the right stuff to do."

On whether President Bush's late filing of an SEC form was acceptable:

"I would say as a general practice it is not acceptable now – even before any changes that are made – for people to fail to file SEC requirements. But, you know, it does happen ... even in some very good companies, there are occasional lapses...."

On proposals for government standards for CEO pay:

"[Some CEO's] have been paid way beyond the value produced. I would add that it is a really scary prospect to imagine someone in the federal government should decide how much money people should make."

On the controversy over corporate reform legislation:

"I would be willing to bet you that 99 percent of the people who have strong opinions on it don't know what they are talking about. They have no idea what the substance of the issue is because they haven't read the bill. They don't know the difference between the Oxley bill (by House Republican Michael Oxley) and the Sarbanes bill (by Senate Democrat Paul Sarbanes).

"And they have not even the foggiest notion of what the implications are at the operational level for the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) or the new accounting regulatory body, or what it is like to live in a boardroom and how these implications flow down."

On the economic outlook:

"While the GDP (gross domestic product) is certainly going to be lower than the first quarter ... I continue to believe we are on a track that is going to take us out to the end of the year at a GDP growth rate between 3 and 3-1/2 percent."

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