More on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Read this article that explains the basic principles of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, which was passed in response to a series of large accounting scandals. This will help you understand some of the rules which govern public companies you may work for or invest in.
2002, Sarbanes-Oxley was named after bill sponsors U.S. Senator Paul
Sarbanes (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Michael G. Oxley (R-OH). As a
result of SOX, top management must individually certify the accuracy of
financial information. In addition, penalties for fraudulent financial
activity are much more severe. Also, SOX increased the oversight role of
boards of directors and the independence of the outside auditors who
review the accuracy of corporate financial statements.
The bill was enacted as a reaction to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals, including those affecting Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems, and WorldCom. These scandals cost investors billions of dollars when the share prices of affected companies collapsed, and shook public confidence in the US securities markets.
The act contains eleven titles, or sections, ranging from additional corporate board responsibilities to criminal penalties, and requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement rulings on requirements to comply with the law. Harvey Pitt, the 26th chairman of the SEC, led the SEC in the adoption of dozens of rules to implement the Sarbanes–Oxley Act. It created a new, quasi-public agency, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, charged with overseeing, regulating, inspecting, and disciplining accounting firms in their roles as auditors of public companies. The act also covers issues such as auditor independence, corporate governance, internal control assessment, and enhanced financial disclosure. The nonprofit arm of Financial Executives International (FEI), Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), completed extensive research studies to help support the foundations of the act.
The act was approved in the House by a vote of 423 in favor, 3 opposed, and 8 abstaining and in the Senate with a vote of 99 in favor and 1 abstaining. President George W. Bush signed it into law, stating it included "the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The era of low standards and false profits is over; no boardroom in America is above or beyond the law".
In response to the perception that stricter financial governance laws are needed, SOX-type regulations were subsequently enacted in Canada (2002), Germany (2002), South Africa (2002), France (2003), Australia (2004), India (2005), Japan (2006), Italy (2006), Israel, and Turkey.
Debates continued as of 2007 over the perceived benefits and costs of SOX. Opponents of the bill have claimed it has reduced America's international competitive edge against foreign financial service providers because it has introduced an overly complex regulatory environment into US financial markets. A study commissioned by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and US Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), cited this as one reason America's financial sector is losing market share to other financial centers worldwide. Proponents of the measure said that SOX has been a "godsend" for improving the confidence of fund managers and other investors with regard to the veracity of corporate financial statements.
The 10th anniversary of SOX coincided with the passing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, designed to give emerging companies an economic boost, and cutting back on a number of regulatory requirements.