The Sarbanes-Oxley Act celebrated its 10th birthday yesterday, a milestone that has triggered a flood of assessments. A Reuters analysis credits the law with strengthening companies’ internal controls on their financial reports and boosting the penalties for executives who commit financial fraud. It points to the initial climb and subsequent decline in the number of companies restating their financials as a sign that Sarbanes-Oxley is working. The article points out, though, that while Sarbanes-Oxley established the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and increased oversight of the accounting industry, it did not eliminate the conflict of interest inherent in public companies paying the accounting firms that audit their books.
Allison Frankel, a legal blogger for Thomson Reuters, notes that Sarbanes-Oxley’s requirement that CEOs and CFOs certify their company’s financial results hasn’t provided prosecutors with muchhelp in going after executives in cases of financial fraud. Regulators have brought few such cases and won even fewer, she says, blaming that in part on companies’ having set up systems in which lower-level executives provide subcertifications that the CEO and CFO rely upon.