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Saturday, January 04, 2003

With WorldCom writing off $50.6bn in "intangible assets" [an amount equivalent to the combined GDPs of the Czech Republic + Hungary in 2001] and 186 public companies with $368bn (£230bn) in assets going bust in 2002, it's worth remembering that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has announced new rules that will explicitly:

* Prohibit analysts from offering or threatening to withhold a favorable research rating or specific price target to induce investment banking business from companies.

* Prohibit research analysts from being supervised by the investment banking department.

* Bar securities firms from tying an analyst's compensation to specific investment banking transactions.

* Bar analysts and members of their households from investing in a company's securities prior to its initial public offering if the company is in the business sector that the analyst covers.

The fact that these rules have had to be spelt out at all suggests that many, at all levels of society, had become skilled at bending the spirit, if not the letter of the law during the booms years. It is also makes clear just how rotten things were prior to and just after the hi-tech bubble burst (wiping $7 trillion+ in value from the DOW Index's 2000 peak)...

While we are on the topic of transparency + accountability in the US you might be interested in a mind-boggling flow-chart that UggaBugga has produced which summarises some of the major financial scandals that have rocked the US recently and how they are connected...

With so many business + political reputations in tatters it will be interesting to see how and where banking, auditing + political funding standards continue to be strengthen in 2003...