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Bush defends 1990 stock sale

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush bristled Tuesday at the suggestion a stock sale he made a dozen years ago was comparable to the kind of corporate behavior he is criticizing in the wake of the disclosures about Enron and WorldCom.

The transaction in question, the sale of Harken Energy Co. stock in June 1990, was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the agency said there was no evidence Bush acted improperly.

"Everything I do is fully disclosed; it's been fully vetted," Bush told reporters.

Democrats raised the issue against Bush in his 1994 campaign for Texas governor, and some Democrats also provided news clippings about the controversy to reporters during the 2000 presidential election. It arose again Tuesday in a column in The New York Times.

On June 22, 1990, Bush sold 66 percent of his holdings in Harken -- 212,000 shares at $4 each. Bush, then a member of Harken's board of directors, said he needed to sell the stock to finance his purchase of a share in the Texas Rangers baseball team.

The stock later fell to $2.27 after the company adjusted its financial balance sheets and disclosed it had a larger debt. The adjustment came after negotiations with the SEC over the bookkeeping the company used when it sold a subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum.

The SEC investigated Harken's accounting and its work with outside auditing firm Arthur Andersen.

The SEC also investigated Bush to determine if he sold his stock based on any insider information, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Some Democrats complained that Bush received favorable treatment because the investigation was conducted during his father's term as president.

Bush in recent weeks has made corporate responsibility a staple of his speeches, and plans to deliver a speech on the subject July 9 in New York.

Enron and WorldCom are both being investigated by the SEC for what officials have described as improper accounting practices that hid losses and inflated profits.




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