SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -
Hecklers interrupted Vice President Dick Cheney as he talked Wednesday about corporate fraud, a topic he ducked later when asked about the company he used to run that's under investigation.
"All of us recognize that the vast majority of men and women in the business community are honest and above-board. They run solid companies providing goods and services that enhance our quality of life," Cheney told the Commonwealth Club of California. "At the same time, they provide jobs for their workers and real value for investors."
As he continued, the shouting from his opponents grew, and about a dozen people were removed from the room. What they were saying wasn't clear. After they left, members of the nonprofit discussion group applauded him.
Last month, President Bush signed legislation intended to punish corporate wrongdoers and toughen oversight of the beleaguered accounting industry after scandals involving companies such as Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc.
The SEC also is investigating the accounting practices at Dallas-based Halliburton Co. (HAL: Research, Estimates), the oil services company that Cheney ran from 1995 to 2000. Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit accusing Halliburton of fraudulent accounting. Cheney and several members of Halliburton's board of directors and executive management are named as defendants.
Bush defended Cheney last month, saying he did nothing wrong, and that the Halliburton probe "will run its course."
Later Wednesday, Cheney was asked whether the accounting practices at Halliburton would hold up under the new law.
For more on Cheney's speech, click here
"First of all, I have great affection and respect for Halliburton. It's a fine company, and I'm pleased that I was associated with a company and with the men and women of Halliburton, some 83,000 strong around the world, during my tenure there," Cheney said.
"There currently is an inquiry under way by the SEC with respect to Halliburton's accounting practices," he said. "I am, of necessity, restrained in what I can say about that matter because there are editorial writers all over America poised to put pen to paper and condemn me for exercising undue, improper influence if I say too much about it, since this is a matter pending before independent regulatory agents of the SEC."
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Cheney referred the audience to the company's Web site for information.
He also said that he would like to serve a second term, as long as his wife and the president approve. Some observers have wondered if the vice president, plagued by heart trouble, would be Bush's choice in 2004.
The vice president also talked about the U.S. economy and world events, including the threat of a U.S. war against Iraq. He said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- who controls 10 percent of the world's oil reserves -- has made no effort to comply with a U.N. resolution calling for him to get rid of his chemical and biological weapons and stop trying to obtain nuclear weapons.