Now that regulators have released their proposals for overhauling compliance guidelines for Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the real work begins as auditors, consultants and corporate executives pore over the details during the comment periods. Following years of complaints about excessive compliance costs and redundant testing, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) are finally tackling the problems by issuing both new guidance for company executives and a revised rule for auditors. But will the changes bring sufficient relief from high audit costs?

James Clendenen, engagement director for the risk and consulting section of Parson Consulting, contends that the vast majority of his clients already use the top-down, risk-based approach to their 404 assessments that the SEC is calling for in its new guidance. "It is beneficial in that it will allow companies to look to the SEC for guidance in how it performs its management assessment, but I don't think it's going to be a dramatic decrease in cost or workload," says Clendenen. The SEC had not issued the final written guidance at press time.

John White, director of the SEC division of corporate finance, says the SEC acknowledges the "overkill" in testing internal controls and contends that the SEC is addressing the problem by telling companies to stop relying on Auditing Standard No. 2 as the basis for their internal controls assessments. "That's the kind of thing that will make the assessment process easier for all companies, large and small," White told Treasury & Risk. "The view has been that 404 [compliance] was too expensive and cumbersome and many were not looking at the right things. We're telling both company management and auditors they were often engaged in overkill and they can focus their efforts in a more efficient way."

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to Treasury & Risk, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical Treasury & Risk information including in-depth analysis of treasury and finance best practices, case studies with corporate innovators, informative newsletters, educational webcasts and videos, and resources from industry leaders.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and Treasury & Risk events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including PropertyCasualty360.com and Law.com.

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.