More than five years after the implosion at Enron Corp. and other corporate scandals prompted Congress to impose strict new regulations aimed at reducing financial misconduct, little has changed on the morality front, according to a recent survey by the Ethics Resource Center (ERC). Some 56% of respondents to ERC's 2007 National Business Ethics Survey said that in the past year, they had personally observed violations of company ethics standards, policy or the law, compared with 55% in the same survey in 2000. Of those that witnessed breaches of conduct 42% didn't report them, with 36% saying they feared retaliation.

"The ethics risk landscape in business is as treacherous as it was before implementation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX)," says Patricia Harned, president of the Arlington, Va.-based organization devoted to the advancement of high ethical standards in private and public institutions.

That's not to say SOX has failed, Harned quickly adds. In fact, she notes, the regulations provide a much-needed framework for identifying and correcting ethical lapses. The real failure, she says, is the lack of corporate focus on building an enterprise-wide culture of morality that requires individuals to know and understand corporate ethics problems and report any misconduct that they observe to the appropriate parties.

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