This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, March 21, 2002. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Scores of angry Arthur Andersen workers continue to protest the government's indictment against their company. This, just this morning in Washington. They say a few bad apples aren't the whole bushel.
Does Congressman Billy Tauzin agree? Let's ask him, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Billy Tauzin. Congressman, good to have you.
REP. BILLY TAUZIN (R-LA), ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Hey, Neil.
CAVUTO: What do you think of that indictment, that the government might have, at least in the eyes of these workers, prematurely dumped the company and kind of gouged them?
TAUZIN: Well, Arthur Andersen has many great employees and many great accountants who work not only here in this country, but around the world. That's true.
But there's no doubt, whether or not what they did was criminal — it's going to be decided in court — but what they did was inexcusable. I mean, the partners in this firm — and this is a partnership, remember — the partners in this firm who authorized the destruction of documents by the trunkload, not just when the investigation began, but when the SEC, after it announced an inquiry, after it announced a formal investigation, after the FBI announced an investigation, it didn't stop until there was subpoenas issued for the documents. That's inexcusable. Whether it is criminal, you know, the criminal courts will decide. But somebody in that company has to answer for those actions, which may well have hid Arthur Andersen's participation in some of the very questionable deals at Enron.
CAVUTO: Do you find it at all ironic, Congressman, that we'll likely see the auditor the firm go out of business before the firm in question go out of business?
TAUZIN: It could happen. I mean, the bottom line here is that Arthur Andersen may have set itself up for this fall. I'm not sure you know this, Neil, but of the five major accounting firms in this country, Arthur Andersen was the only one who gave its local auditors the right to overrule its national quality review board. Every other firm makes mandatory rulings about the quality of audits and the quality of the work done in interpreting the accounting standards at the firms they audit.
Only Arthur Andersen allowed their local partners the right to overrule the national quality review board. That put them in jeopardy. That made them susceptible to influence by a dominant CEO or perhaps a dominant COO or financial officer at a corporation who might have wanted them to go along with a bad deal. That may be the source of much of their problems.
CAVUTO: We just don't know yes. But, Sir, I'd like to switch gears here and talk a little bit...
CAVUTO: I know it seems a bit of a bad segue, liquor advertising. NBC has decided, as you know, to forego hard liquor advertising when they were bandying that about. Was that as a result of pressure from you?
TAUZIN: No, not at all. In fact, we got a call from NBC the day before they made the decision that they were about to decide to put a pause on that whole business, primarily because the other networks hadn't joined them. They were standing out there alone to agreeing to allow the advertisement of hard liquor.
Here's the problem, Neil, we in this country went through prohibition, as you know. We decided and said that liquor was going to be a legal product in our society. We allowed beer and beer products to be advertised on television. But the hard liquor industry agreed voluntarily not to advertise for a long time, saw its market share shifting away from it and decided it wasn't fair for one part of the industry — liquor is liquor after all. You can abuse beer as well as you can abuse hard liquor.
CAVUTO: But was that the understanding, Congressman, that, in other words, look, if you're going to start going to the hard liquor stuff, we might revisit the beer and wine stuff. And NBC just said, ahhh, the heck with it?
TAUZIN: Well, it could well be that. I think it was more that NBC was out on the limb. They were the only, you know, broadcasting network that agreed to take the ads. Nobody else joined them. Now all the heat was coming down and they were out there standing alone. They decided, maybe we ought to pause and get a better debate on this issue before we go forward. That probably was a good idea.
But think about it with me. Is it right and fair in America that some alcohol products can advertise responsibly, we hope, on television and others can't? Or should we have a rule that applies equally to all of them, perhaps an agreement that all of them would do responsible advertising, not advertise to kids, and advertise in a way that encouraged the non-abuse of their products, and particularly focused on drinking and driving. The kind of things the beer industry does so well, maybe the hard liquor industry can do it as well.
The point is should we treat one differently than the other when, you know, alcohol is alcohol and there probably is more abuse of one than the other, as you're well aware.
CAVUTO: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Always good seeing you.
TAUZIN: Good being with you.
CAVUTO: Billy Tauzin in Washington.
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