Donald Evans, U.S. Commerce Secretary

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, September 4, 2002, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: How much are these scandals still weighing on corporate America? Let's ask a guy who should know, the commerce secretary of these grand United States, Don Evans.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.

DONALD EVANS, U.S. COMMERCE SECRETARY: You bet, Neil, always good to be with you.

CAVUTO: These ongoing scandals, they seem to slow down a little bit. I guess we are waiting for the next shoe to drop, the trials, and how many guilty verdicts can be found, how many of them go off to jail? Your own gut read on it, how far does this go?

EVANS: Well, Neil, obviously we have not heard the last of it. I think there is more to be discovered and, you know, I am not going to predict that there is going to be more big revelations. A process is underway. I was delighted to see the president sign a corporate accountability bill right before the August recess. The SEC is very focused on these issues. The corporate fraud task force is doing its job. You know, if people have violated the law we need to hunt them down and chase them, and then prosecute them and bring them to justice. And that is what is going on here. That what this hearing today was about. And we are going to have more hearings like this.

CAVUTO: There is a view that the media tends to focus on the scandals and not on all of the companies that are doing a good job. What do you think of that?

EVANS: I think it is true. I think that there is a lot of truth in the statement, Neil. Listen, by far, by far the corporations of America are run by honest, decent, trustworthy people, people of integrity. That is why our system has worked so well through the years. And that is why so many across corporate America are so angry right now, because they know their reputations have been tainted somewhat by a very few, for whatever reasons, have chose to take the action that they have, that has been very damaging to our system. And when people violate the system. When they he are dishonest. When they don't tell the truth, it hurts the whole character of America. And that's why so many CEOs are so angry, so many business leaders, so many Americans. It's not just the CEOs and business leaders. Look, it's hurt employees, it's hurt investors. But you damage the character of America. But again, it is a very few. It is a very, very small percentage of the people that I think have violated the trust of America.

CAVUTO: Secretary, there is a lot of concern with some weakening economic numbers, particularly manufacturing just barely holding positive, that we're going to re-enter a recession or at the very least revisit a slowdown. What do you say?

EVANS: Look, Neil, what I say is the same thing I said about nine months ago. The long-term fundamentals of this economy are very, very sound. And this economy for the last nine months, almost 12 months now, has been growing at about 3 percent. Yes, this last quarter was a little bit slower than some people thought it might be. But I do know this, I do know the American people are still buying autos at record levels. I know they are buying homes at record levels. I know inflation is very, very low. I know that interest rates are at 30-year lows. In fact home mortgage rates are at historical lows. So there are a lot of very good positive indicators out there about this economy. And I am very optimistic about the economy. I know that the Fed has got a target of growth for 2003 in the 3 1/2 to 4 percent range.

CAVUTO: Well, speaking of the Fed, Mr. Secretary, do you think, as some hope to see this month, the Fed should cut rates?

EVANS: Well, listen. I think the Fed has done a tremendous job of providing liquidity into this economy. They've poured an awful lot of liquidity in the economy over the last 18 months or so at just the right time. I think two things have really driven this economy over the last 18 months. One is the liquidity that the Fed has poured into the system as well as the tax cut that the president let on in the spring of 2002. I think those two basic fundamental moves are the reason that the consumer is staying so active in this economy, continuing to drive this economy. And I don't see any reason to believe that they are going to let up. I think the consumers will continue to drive the economy. And the Fed, listen, they have done a masterful job. And you know, I will let the chairman decide what he needs to do with rates from this point forward.

CAVUTO: On this anniversary, very close to it, of 9/11, Mr. Secretary, are you surprised we are not worse off right now economically?

EVANS: Well, I will tell you what really surprised everybody, Neil, was the performance of the economy in the fourth quarter of 2001. And I think that there were a lot of economists that were forecasting, predicting that the economy could collapse or would have a serious downturn because of the impact of the terrorist attack. And we did not. And the reason we did not was principally because of the president's leadership. When the president talked to America, when he talked to the world, the world felt confident and comfortable that the president was indeed going to provide the kind of leadership required at that moment, gave this country confidence. And as a result, the economy in fact grew in the fourth quarter of 2001. And so, when you look at the industries that have been hit pretty hard, one, the airline industry, of course, we continue to read about that, the telecom industry, we know what is going on there. There have been tremendous losses there. So when you look at a couple of industries like that that have been hit so hard, yes, you say, look, the economy is really performing pretty well, considering a couple of industries that have been hit so hard.

CAVUTO: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much, nice seeing you again.

EVANS: Yes, Neil, great to see you.

CAVUTO: The commerce secretary of the United States, Don Evans.

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