Harvey Pitt, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has advice for companies setting up whistleblower systems in time for this year's Sarbanes-Oxley Act deadline: Don't be cheap. "Trying to do this on a shoestring will eventually wind up costing companies far more than doing it right the first time," says Pitt, whose Washington-based consulting firm, Kalorama Partners LLC, advises businesses on complying with government regulations.

Section 301(4) of Sarbanes-Oxley requires that audit committees establish procedures for the "receipt, retention and treatment" of complaints about accounting or auditing. What's more, the provision specifies that employees must be able to submit concerns anonymously.

Vendors, many of them start-ups, have rushed to offer help dealing with these new standards. The companies generally can provide a variety of ways for employees to lodge complaints, including 24-hour telephone hotlines, Web sites, e-mail, fax and mail. Some even are available to investigate employee claims or offer tracking software to prompt compliance officers to take action.

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