AT&T Inc. will take a $1 billion non-cash accounting charge in the first quarter because of the health care overhaul and may cut benefits it offers to current and retired workers.
The charge is the largest disclosed so far. Earlier this week, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Co. and Valero Energy announced similar accounting charges, saying the health care law that President Barack Obama signed Tuesday will raise their expenses. On Friday, 3M Co. said it will also take a charge of $85 million to $90 million.
Oops. That wasn't supposed to happen. And now Congress is getting involved. . . by attempting to intimidate the companies for mentioning it. Powerline reprints a letter that the odious Henry Waxman (and his new best pal, Bart Stupak) sent to AT&T after it had made the announcement -- page one is here, page two is here. Waxman is very good at running star chambers and his goal is to cow the corporate execs into disavowing such statements, lest they contradict the promises that Waxman, Obama, Pelosi, Stupak and the rest of our protectors have made regarding this legislation.
There's a problem with all that, though -- the reason that AT&T has to disclose such things is because of another federal rule, Sabanes-Oxley. Section 409 requires the following:
Issuers are required to disclose to the public, on an urgent basis, information on material changes in their financial condition or operations. These disclosures are to be presented in terms that are easy to understand supported by trend and qualitative information of graphic presentations as appropriate.
Of course, if you follow the law and disclose things that Henry Waxman doesn't like, you'll be dragged in front of his committee to explain yourself.
In most cases, the truth is an absolute defense. That may no longer be true. As if you needed any other reason to vote out the Democrats in November, I can think of few better reasons than taking the gavel out of Henry Waxman's hand.