In Defense of ”Activism”

Instead of operating within the law, business leaders are conspiring to put activist officials out of office, writes a reader. More letters to the editor: The drag of Sarbox; trade-education programs for immigrants; hands-on finance training; and more.

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Your article “The Spitzer Backlash” (March) was interesting, well written, and very informative.

It is well to note the reaction of business leaders to the activist attorneys general. Instead of trying to “clean up their act” and operate within the law and ethical constraints, business leaders are attempting to throw money at their problem by conspiring to put the activists out of office and replace them with compliant attorneys general who will not prosecute businesses for their misdeeds.

The message is clear: they will never change their dishonest ways. Their reaction is to increase the corruption by spreading it from their organizations to the governmental sphere.

Hopefully, the voters will see through this and will continue to place the activists in positions of authority. Also hopefully, the activists will be encouraged by this support and will increase their activism.

Bob Boos

Via E-mail

The Drag of Sarbox

I think Sarbanes-Oxley is a far bigger drag on U.S. industry than your article suggests (“A Tough Act to Follow,” March).

Our company develops software for engineering applications. Some of our customers are large, publicly traded corporations. When I call on the engineering managers, I frequently hear that they’re tied up in a Sarbanes-Oxley compliance meeting. They also say they’ve lost their flexibility in budgeting for small capital projects because the accounting department tells them they don’t dare shift funds around during the year unless it is an absolute emergency. I don’t know if Sarbanes-Oxley requires all of this reporting in engineering departments, but I think companies are too scared to take any chances.

Passing a law that limits competitiveness in U.S. industry at a time of global competition is so brilliantly stupid that only Congress could have come up with it. I would have to lump the President in with Congress for signing the bill. There is nothing like an overreaction law to employ more lawyers and accountants while the rest of us pay the price.

Eric R. Hedman

Chief Technical Officer

Logic Design Corp.

Via E-mail

More Thoughts on Immigrant Workers

Relative to your article “Help Wanted” (March), it would be interesting to know if Ingersoll-Rand and its fellow heavy industrial manufacturers sponsor trade-education programs for U.S. citizens in order to create a skilled workforce for these positions. If not, shame on them.

I feel certain there are many individuals in our country who would be interested in becoming welding tradespeople. The reason I’m convinced is that I see no shortage of other tradespeople, such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, masons, and so on. I think the companies’ bottom lines and “stockholder satisfaction” are of more interest to these companies and their stockholders than creating jobs for our citizens.

Companies, stockholders, and consumers should be willing to contribute to the slightly higher cost of production by absorbing this expense. Believe it or not, there are many of us who live within the top 5 percent income bracket who would be willing to do so. We would much rather help mankind in lieu of purchasing another toy to put in the garage or another expensive knickknack.

I admit this problem is not as simple to resolve as I have described, but I am also convinced that the problem is not as difficult to resolve as Corporate America and government make it out to be. It’s amazing how greed contributes so greatly to making various situations seem very complex.

Name Withheld by Request

Richmond, Virginia

What is Corporate America doing to prepare the next generation of welders and nurses? Tomorrow’s labor pool is right here inside our borders — in our high schools. However, most high school students have no guidance on their future and are usually faced with two choices when they graduate: college or the military. There is no push to learn a trade, and how many college grads, majoring in leisure studies, say they can’t find a job?

If American industry or unions would step up and help fund training or apprentice programs for the trades, they would create a ready-made pool of talent from which to recruit. It seems like more and more high schools are doing away with wood-and-metal shops and automotive training because they are pushing for college-bound students. They should be doing exactly the opposite.

American industry and unions need to make a concerted effort to promote tomorrow’s trade and technology needs so we won’t need to take the easy way out — that is, looking beyond our borders and hiring foreign engineers and uneducated, unskilled labor. If we invest in America’s youth, it will pay off in the long run.

Al Gumeny

Nutley, New Jersey

Training Days

Your article “What’s Wrong with Finance Training” (CFO’s Human Capital Special Issue, February) rightfully stresses an absolute need for training in all areas of the finance department and beyond. The absence of attention or proper training in the areas of internal controls and risk management can have a serious impact on overall operations. Today, there is so much emphasis on the Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 guidelines that proper implementation of the requirements will depend not only on training in the finance department, but in operating units as well.

The traditional belief is that training is the responsibility of the human-resources and training department. This may be true in the broader scope of things, but when it comes to finance training, I would prefer the CFO or a finance-department manager to take the initiative. Finance training must also be extended to other departments, because if staff in the operating units are not properly trained in the requirements, then the functions of the finance team become difficult.

A CFO understands the vision and mission of the organization. By strategically aligning all resources, the CFO will be in a position to identify and develop the desired training to help achieve the goals and objectives of the organization.

Mohamed Cassim

Via E-mail

History Lesson

If only our egocentric representatives in Washington, D.C., had a sense of history (“America for Sale,” Topline, February).

Americans did not own more than 50 percent of U.S. assets until after the Civil War. British interests were the major holdings. However, with proximity to opportunity, Americans finally controlled their own destiny.

More recently, the Japanese bought our overpriced real estate. If they hadn’t, we would have had a major real-estate depression. Then, as Japan’s economic “miracle” stagnated, it built automobile factories in the United States, usually in places that had underemployment.

When new opportunities arise, Americans are the first to have access to them. Let’s bravely live up to our potential.

Peter Whiteford

Whiteford Enterprises

Houston

Safe Haven

I enjoyed your article “CFO Confidential” (Your Move, January). I’m sure the article, which focused on where finance chiefs go for advice, will strike a chord with a lot of CFOs. I thought you might be interested in knowing of one approach that is working here in Savannah.

I recently developed the idea of a CFO/Controller’s Council, where senior financial executives could meet and discuss some of the issues they have to deal with. It takes little time to organize and administer, has no formal organizational structure or dues, minimizes intrusion on members’ time, and the monthly breakfast meetings are free to council members.

Our goal was to get 15 people to our first meeting. Apparently, your question is one that many senior financial executives ask, because we had 41 people at that initial meeting. Since February 2004, the council has grown to 120 members.

The most common comment I hear from council members is that the meetings are a safe haven where they can come and discuss business issues with peers and draw on the collective wisdom, experience, and education of the council.

Over the past two years, a lot of business and personal relationships have been formed that have proved beneficial to council members in myriad ways. One of our members was recently relocated to another city and is working on setting up a council there.

Thanks for posing a great question.

H. Roy Austin

Chief Financial Officer

D. J. Powers Co.

Savannah, Georgia

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