Congress rushed to enact the Sarbanes-Oxley Act last summer in the wake of the Enron Corp. scandal, and then the Securities and Exchange Commission labored mightily to issue a host of regulations concerning the law's new requirements by its Jan. 26 deadline. Now, the job of putting all this into practice falls to corporations, and perhaps not surprisingly most executives are already predicting that the task is going to prove significantly more time-consuming and expensive than anyone in the government has predicted.

Exactly how much money and time will it take? Estimates vary. Take a single regulation: the proposed rule that has CEOs and CFOs signing off on their company's internal controls every quarter. The SEC has estimated that it would require five additional hours of work. Finance executives take exception. Signing off every quarter "takes a lot of work. We said the SEC had under-called the time involved by at least 100 times and maybe even a further order," says Cary Klafter, director of corporate affairs for $26.7 billion Intel Corp.

Multiply that times the number of various provisions–not to mention some of the stricter rules coming out of the major stock exchanges–and executives won't have time for hanky-panky, even if they wanted to.

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