AT&T, Verizon Should Tell Waxman to Shove His Hearing

Last Updated Apr 4, 2010 9:53 PM EDT

Rep. Henry WaxmanWhat if self-appointed health-care nazi Henry Waxman (pictured) had an inquisition and nobody came? Seriously, what would happen if the all-powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee summoned the CEOs of some of America's most prominent companies to Washington, for no other reason than to brow beat them for filing an accounting write-down per SEC rules, and the CEOs of Verizon, AT&T, Caterpillar, and Deere decided not to show up.

I think Waxman's head would explode. Seriously.

Memo to Waxman: when a public company determines there will be an extraordinary material impact to its operating results - and $1 billion is surely material to AT&T, as is $100 million to Caterpillar - and its accountants decide its appropriate to take a non-cash charge in a specific quarter, the SEC requires that it be disclosed. Ever heard of Reg FD, Henry? Just in case you haven't, you can find the form here at sec.gov.

But wait; maybe that's not what Waxman's upset about. Maybe it's that AT&T warned it "will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company." Um, does Henry really not get that all those clever new taxes that congress hoisted on corporate America to pay for the health care bill are going to flow right down to employees and customers faster than an accountant can update a spreadsheet?
I bet AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson would rather spend the day preparing for a colonoscopy than getting grilled by Waxman and his cronies. Actually, a lobotomy might be more effective. Just to get a feeling for the kind of brainless bureaucratic BS Stephenson and his fellow chiefs are in for, here are some excerpts from the letter Waxman and henchman Bart Simpson -- I mean Bart Stupak sent him at AT&T:

After the President signed the health care reform bill into law, your company announced that provisions in the law could adversely affect your ability to provide health insurance. AT&T stated in its March 26,2010, filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it intends to take a charge of approximately $1 billion in the first quarter of 2010. As a result of the legislation, the company says it "will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health care benefits offered by the company."
The new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs, so your assertions are a matter of concern. They also appear to conflict with independent analyses. The Congressional Budget Office has reported that companies that insure more than 50 employees would see a decrease of up to 3% in average premium costs per person by 2016. The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers from leading U.S. companies, asserted in November 2009 that health care reform could reduce predicted health insurance cost trends for businesses by more than $3,000 per employee over the next ten years.
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing on April 21, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. ... We request your personal testimony at this hearing.
To assist the Committee with its preparation for the hearing, we request that you provide the following [9 trillion] documents -- by April 9, 2010.
I bet Stephenson's meeting with his physician right now to schedule that lobotomy.

The condemned CEOs should tell Henry what to do with his hearing, but that's not going to happen, so instead, I'll just say this: "Give as good as you get, fellas. Give 'em hell!"
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