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As it was at almost all public companies, the first year of compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley’s Section 404 was anything but pretty at Advanced Micro Devices Inc., a $5.8 billion microprocessor producer with corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. Costs were much higher than anticipated; demands on resources, much greater. Like most companies, AMD vowed that Year Two would be different. But as the arrival of the external auditor drew near last year, Vivek Sharma, group controller of finance, and his internal controls team had not come to grips with the most stressful problem of Year One–the epic flood of e-mails between external auditors and AMD staff around the globe. For weeks on end, thousands of pings disrupted the business of AMD with requests for documents and, more often than was acceptable, requests for the same documents from different staff members at different times or for documents the company had already supplied months earlier. “Any change in team members on our side or by the auditor could require that parts of the process be performed again,” says Sharma.

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