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1998-05-11 21:25:18


SEC Chairman: Old-Fashioned American Business Survivalism



WASHINGTON POST reporters interviewed Arthur Levitt, the Chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission The interview was published on May 11.

They talked of many things, and Mr. Levitt was upbeat on all of them. Mr. Levitt is to things financial what Richard Simmons is to things gastronomical: "Don't eat all that bacon; feast on yummy fat-free sows' ears!"

Then one of them raised the Year 2000 Problem. No problem, Levitt said, for American businesses. You see, American businesses are survivors.

This is inspirational. Add this one to "good, old-fashioned American ingenuity."

Here is the basic line of questioning that never is pursued beyond the first question. Will y2k be fixed? Yes. By whom? By the free market. But who, exectly, in the free market? By them. They can do it.

"But where is the evidence?"

Go, away, kid; you bother me!"

Thirty years years ago, there was a comedian known as Professor Irwin Corey, "the world's foremost authority." He wasn't very funny. His routine was limited. He would take questions from the audience or the emcee, and he would answer in gibberish. Arthur Levitt has mastered Corey's routine.

* * * * * * * *

What about the year 2000 computer problem?

I think the markets will be set and the SEC will be set as soon as we phase in the new EDGAR program. Any businessman is nuts if he is not ready for the year 2000 because there is no deferring it. I think that Corporate America, by and large, will be prepared for the year 2000. Will our [foreign] counterparts be ready? I'm not that sure. I said to Corporate America that if by the end of this year they are not demonstrating their readiness, I would simply stop doing business with them. . . . I don't anticipate catastrophes with respect to the year 2000. I think enough prominence is being given to it. Survival is the issue here, and American businesses, if they are nothing else, they are survivors.


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