Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) is no longer a dirty word at most corporations. Nearly 82% of 253 audit committee members recently surveyed by The Center for Audit Quality say audit quality has improved in recent years. And early adopters are telling Mark Olson, chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, that compliance costs for once dreaded Section 404 audits are falling, following the late 2007 implementation of Auditing Standard 5. "We're hearing that companies–especially big global companies–are seeing immediate reductions in the internal cost of executing SOX, as well as in the amount of details required compared to [Auditing Standard 2]," Olson told attendees at Treasury & Risk's conference, A Vision for Tomorrow's Treasurer, in New York.

Meanwhile, finance executives have another derivatives accounting standard with which to contend–when they haven't even fully recovered from adoption of Financial Accounting Standard (FAS) 133 nearly eight years ago. The now notorious FAS 133 forced companies to list derivative and hedge fund contract values on their balance sheets and introduced complex and difficult to achieve standards to qualify for shortcut hedge accounting. Now, with the release of FAS 161 in March upping the disclosure ante, corporations have more to worry about.

FAS 161 comes as many companies expand their derivatives exposure to hedge against interest rates and market volatility, among other risks. The Financial Accounting Standards Board says the new standards addresses investor concerns that FAS 133 didn't adequately explain how these investments affect financial performance and cash flows. It will require companies to spell out how and why derivative instruments and other hedged items are used, how they are accounted for under FAS 133 and specify fair value amounts and how gains and losses impact finances. The costs of FAS 161 implementation might turn out to be significant, but will likely be nowhere near as significant as those attributed to SOX, says Sugata Roychowdhury, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management.

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