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August 19, 2002
Volume 80, Number 33
CENEAR 80 33 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347

BUSINESS

SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
Corporate executives hustle to certify financial data by SEC deadline

MARC REISCH

Last week, corporate executives rushed to satisfy the Securities & Exchange Commission's June 27 order that they personally attest to the authenticity of their companies' financial statements.

The certifications--intended to assure investors who have bid down share prices in the wake of accounting scandals at firms such as Enron and WorldCom--arrived at SEC offices last week. All of the largest chemical companies whose chief executives and chief financial officers had to supply sworn statements met the Aug. 14 deadline, with the exception of Hercules. It asked for a five-day extension on certification to deal with accounting complexities from the sale of BetzDearborn to General Electric.

Only officers of 945 companies with sales over $1.2 billion had to file statements. More are on the way. On July 30, President George W. Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires officers of all public companies--effective Aug. 29--to certify financial results.

Many CEOs carefully reviewed recent financial statements before they signed on the dotted line. Some certified in advance of the deadline, including Solutia's John C. Hunter III and PPG's Raymond W. LeBoeuf.

"We have strict ethics and compliance standards in place," DuPont CEO Charles O. Holliday Jr. said in a letter to employees. He said he signed the SEC certificate confident that "our financial statements were in absolute compliance."

Integrity plays a big role in accounting, many chemical executives note. Vincent A. Calarco of Crompton Corp. says that "accounting is not a black-and-white issue. It requires judgment, and good judgment depends on integrity."



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