Stanley Sporkin, director of the enforcement division at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said yesterday that while Watergate symbolizes public corruption, the revelations of improper corporals activities "are demonstrative of the existence of pervasive corruption in the private sector."
He said that "the one-dimensional explanation that has been proffered, for example, that such conduct is a way of life, is simply not acceptable."
"Illegal campaign contributions, unaccountable slush funds, false books and records, bribery of foreign officals, domestic commercial bribery and improper insider benefits are activities much too diverse to be explained by a single circumstance."
Sporkin, whose enforcement staff has investigated and taken legal action against some 300 companies for such activities, made the remarks in a speech scheduled for delivery in New York City to a conference of corporate directors sponsored by Business Week magazine.
Sporkin accused some outside accountants of deciding that "it was in their pecuniary interests to become participants and play the game rather than be impartial referees."
He also criticized outside directors for going along with management "rather than impartially direct the affairs of the corporation."
Among the reforms suggested by Sporkin:
Representation of non-insider public shareholders on the boards of directors "even though it might be disproportionate to their holdings."
A strict standard of independence for directors. "I would question whether those who do substantial business with the company, in whatever form, legal, banking, supplier or any other form, can meet this standard."
A mechanism to sanction directors who do not perform, "even to the point, in gregious cases, of prohibiting or barring them from acting as a director in a publicly held company."
The creation of "business practices officers" for certain public corporations "to ferret out improper business practices within the corporation and bring them to the attention of the board of directors."