NEW YORK (CNN) -
Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, Citigroup's chairman and chief executive officer, has called for an independent body to oversee the accounting industry's auditing functions of public companies.
"I believe that a strong, independent authority must be established to set and enforce accounting standards," Weill said. "Therefore, I strongly support the creation of an independent authority to oversee the conduct of auditors of public companies -- in effect, an SEC for the accounting industry."
Weill made the comments in a speech late Monday to 250 CEOs and other guests gathered at the New York Stock Exchange to honor him as Chief Executive magazine's "Chief Executive of the Year." His remarks came a day before President Bush was scheduled to give what is expected to be a major policy speech addressing corporate fraud and mismanagement in the wake of scandals at companies such as Enron and WorldCom (WCOME: Research, Estimates).
The 69-year-old Weill said he supported President Bush's proposal that corporate chieftains forfeit any compensation that they may receive by manipulating their financial statements, as well as SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt's effort to make CEOs more accountable for those statements.
Weill suggested it was time for U.S. corporations to get back to basic standards of accounting for revenue and expenses, rather than using "pro forma" and other measures for financial results. "I think that this will lessen the room for interpretation and minimize the leeway that companies have for creative accounting."
The Citigroup (C: Research, Estimates) chairman also praised Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., and Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, for introducing legislation that attempts to tighten regulatory loopholes and to clarify existing standards of corporate conduct. But he reminded the audience that the U.S. system of corporate governance had "served us exceedingly well for decades," and warned legislators to resist going too far or risk jeopardizing the benefits of the system.
"We still enjoy the most productive, innovative, efficient, and inclusive economic system on the planet," Weill said. "In seeking to improve it, we must not erode these strengths."