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After a seemingly endless series of postponements in deadlines designed to help smaller public companies prepare for Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404(a) compliance, a new study of 3,321 smaller companies finds little evidence that they are any better prepared now than when the delays first began. More than a third of the companies reviewed by SOX research and compliance firm Lord & Benoit, gave little or no consideration to the delays and completed assessments at the last minute–or not at all.

More disturbing is smaller companies’ attitude. “About 700 companies were completely noncompliant or they issued statements with poor segregation of duties,” says Robert Benoit, Lord & Benoit president, noting that segregation of duties is not a control problem but, rather, a way to forestall financial reporting abuses. Even with just two people in a company, accounting and check signing duties can be divided. “These companies just decided they weren’t going to do it,” Benoit says.

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