January 11, 2002
Bush Orders Review of Pension Rules
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Amid the launch of a criminal investigation into Enron's finances, President Bush has ordered the Treasury Department to review rules regulating all employers' pension and 401(k) plans.
Administration sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Bush acted partly to inoculate himself politically from the bankruptcy of the Texas-based energy company that has ties to Bush and administration officials.
The move came a day after the Justice Department announced it has begun a criminal investigation of Enron, a bankrupt energy company whose collapse caused many employees to lose their life's savings.
The AP said Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill would head a group working to determine whether laws and regulations can be tightened to protect worker pension plans.
A senior official involved in discussions on the issue told the AP that the Justice Department will determine whether Enron broke any laws, while the Treasury Department will study whether Enron's conduct, although potentially legal, exposed loopholes in the system.
The Washington Post reported that Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was among those who met with Bush on the topic Thursday morning.
Enron's chairman and chief executive, Kenneth Lay, is a political ally of Bush's. He and other Enron officials met six times with Vice President Dick Cheney or his aides last year, before and after the release of the administration's energy plan.
Lay and his company have contributed money to Bush as well as many other candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike.
The AP noted that the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog agency in Washington, says Enron's executives contributed nearly $800,000 to Bush, members of Congress and the two national political parties from 1999 to 2001.