for Review of Pension Regulations, Corporate Disclosure Rules
Photo Op with Economic Team
The Oval Office
The White House
January 10, 2002
9:42 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I met with my economic security team
last week to talk about ways to create jobs. We're meeting again with the components
of the team to talk about one part of economic security, and that's pension
One of the things we're deeply concerned about is that there have been a wave
of bankruptcies that have caused many workers to lose their pensions, and that's
deeply troubling to me. And so I've asked the Secretary of Treasury, Secretary
of Labor and Secretary of Commerce to convene a working group to analyze pensions,
rules and regulations, to look into the effects of the current law on hard-working
Americans, and to come up with recommendations how to reform the system to make
sure that people are not exposed to losing their life savings as a result of
a bankruptcy, for example.
As well, Secretary of Treasury, along with the SEC, the Fed, and the CFTC, are
going to convene a working group to analyze corporate disclosure rules and regulations.
In light of the most recent bankruptcy, Enron, there needs to be a full review
of disclosure rules, to make sure that the American stockholder, or any stockholder,
And so, I think this is an important part of, obviously, other investigations
that are ongoing. The Justice Department announced and informed us late yesterday
that they're in the process of investigating aspects of the Enron bankruptcy.
The administration is deeply concerned about its effects on the economy. We're
also deeply concerned about its effects on the lives of our citizenry.
I'll be glad to answer a few questions.
QUESTION: When was the last time you talked to either Mr. Lay or any other Enron official,
about the -- about anything? And did discussions involve the financial problems
of the company?
THE PRESIDENT: I have never discussed, with Mr. Lay, the financial problems
of the company. The last time that I saw Mr. Lay was at my mother's fundraising
event to -- for literacy, in Houston. That would have been last spring. I do
know that Mr. Lay came to the White House in -- early in my administration,
along with, I think 20 other business leaders, to discuss the state of the economy.
It was just kind of a general discussion. I have not met with him personally.
QUESTION: -- to inoculate and your administration politically from the fallout?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, Ken Lay is a supporter. And I got to know
Ken Lay when he was the head of the -- what they call the Governor's Business
Council in Texas. He was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994. And
she had named him the head of the Governor's Business Council. And I decided
to leave him in place, just for the sake of continuity. And that's when I first
got to know Ken, and worked with Ken, and he supported my candidacy.
This is -- what anybody's going to find, if -- is that this administration will
fully investigate issues such as the Enron bankruptcy, to make sure we can learn
from the past, and make sure that workers are protected.
QUESTION: Mr. President, does it appear that Iran is flexing its muscles in Western
Afghanistan, and does that threaten the U.S. war on terrorism in that region?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, Iran must be a contributor in the war against
terror; that our nation and our fight against terror will uphold the doctrine,
either you're with us or against us; and any nation that thwarts our ability
to rout terror out where it exists will be held to account, one way or the other.
I hope -- we had some positive signals early -- early in this war from the Iranians.
We would hope that they would continue to be a positive force in helping us
bring people to justice. We would hope, for example, they wouldn't allow al
Qaeda murderers to hide in their country. We would hope that if that be the
case, if someone tries to flee into Iran, that they would hand them over to
us, that they're a part of -- if they're a part of the coalition, then they
need to be an active part of the coalition.
In terms of Afghanistan, we are -- we would like to work with the Iranians,
as well as other neighboring countries, to bring a stable interim government
to stabilize the interim government. And to the extent that they're involved,
we would hope that they would participate, if they are trying -- if they in
any way, shape, or form try to destabilize the government, the coalition will
be -- we'll deal with them, in diplomatic ways, initially. And we would like
very much for them to be active participants in a stable Afghanistan. It's to
their advantage, by the way, that Afghanistan be stable.
QUESTION: Mr. President, based on the evidence the Israeli delegation presented at the
State Department yesterday, about this arms shipment, do you believe that it's
time for the United States to either break or suspend relations with Mr. Arafat
and the Palestinian Authority?
THE PRESIDENT: John, I think it's very important for our administration to remain
engaged with both parties. Obviously, I want to make sure that the evidence
is definitive. But I'm, like many, beginning to suspect that those arms were
headed in the wrong -- to promote terror. And terror will never enable us to
achieve peace in the Middle East. So long as there's terrorists trying to disrupt
the peace process, there won't be peace.
I do believe that, once the evidence is in, that those responsible need to be
held to account. On the other hand, I also believe that our country must stay
engaged in the process. I intend to ask Zinni to go back to the region at the
appropriate time, to keep pushing for a dialogue, to keep pushing for the process
to go forward.
Mr. Arafat must renounce terror, must reject those who would disrupt the peace
process through terror, and must work hard to get to the peace table. It seems
like it's up to him to make these decisions.
QUESTION: But has he been less that truthful in speaking to Secretary Powell, General
Zinni and others, in saying he had nothing to do with this and no knowledge
THE PRESIDENT: We will find out the facts, John. But he is -- you asked a question,
should we basically disengage? And the answer is no, we won't disengage from
the Middle East. We will stay involved in the Middle East peace process -- or
trying to get to the peace process. And it starts with making the region more
Mr. Arafat must renounce terror, and must reject those in the region that would
disrupt the peace process by the use of terrorist means.
QUESTION: What can you do about pensioners -- what can you do about pensioners now?
Isn't that horse already out of the barn at Enron?
THE PRESIDENT: Our group is meeting, and they will bring recommendations here.
They'll look at -- fully investigate what went on. My concern, of course, is
for the shareholders of Enron. But my -- I have great concern for the stories
-- for those I read about in the stories who put their life savings aside, and
for whatever reason, based upon some rule or regulation, got trapped in this
awful bankruptcy and have lost life savings.
And one of the things this group is going to do is take a good hard look at