The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law on 30th July 2002, and introduced highly significant legislative changes to financial practice and corporate governance regulation. It introduced stringent new rules with the stated objective: "to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures made pursuant to the securities laws".
It also introduced a number of deadlines, the prime ones being:
- Most public companies must meet the financial reporting and certification mandates for any end of year financial statements filed after November 15th 2004 (amended from June 15th).
- smaller companies and foreign companies must meet these mandates for any statements filed after 15th July 2005 (amended from April 15th).
The act is actually named after its main architects, Senator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael Oxley, and of course followed a series of very high profile scandals, such as Enron. It is also intended to "deter and punish corporate and accounting fraud and corruption, ensure justice for wrongdoers, and protect the interests of workers and shareholders" (Quote: President Bush).
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act itself is organized into eleven titles, although sections 302, 404, 401, 409, 802 and 906 are the most significant with respect to compliance (Sarbanes Oxley section 404 seems to cause most concern) and internal control. In addition, the Act also created a public company accounting board.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of this legislation however relates to its profile. It is very much in the public and media arena. The focus is certainly intense in this respect, creating yet another clear motivation for compliance. There is simply no escaping it!
A copy of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act itself can be obtained in PDF format from HERE