SOX Basics . . . How is going to affect me?
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Ed Note:
If you work for a US-based publicly traded company, you can be pretty sure that SOX affects you. Now, you may not know that, and it may not FEEL to you like SOX is important to you, but let me assure you, SOX affects you.

And it's very likely that if it hasn't yet affected you directly that you know of, then hang in there and it will! :-)

Why to we care about SOX?

Well, the biggie is that SOX happened as a direct result of Enron and the degradation of trust in public companies' financial reporting. When the SEC and stockholders decided that public companies were misrepresenting financials in an effort to obfuscate their financial difficulties, SOMETHING needed to be done.

As a result came the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, passed by the US Senate (Sarbanes) and US House of Representatives (Oxley). The Sarbanes-Oxley act is often referred to as "Sarbanes" or merely as "SOx" or "SOX."

Three sets of workers are most familiar with SOX issues:

  • Accounting and Finance workers (who realize that their every reporting effort will be looked at with a fine-tooth comb as financial reports are produced for shareholders). There's no shortage of a healthy paranoia in accounting and finance departments these days. }:-)

  • Internal Audit workers (whose work went from complex and detailed to complex, detailed and never ending!) SOX 404 IT audits can take up more time and resources than the Internal Audit department even had to spend. Internal Audit departments had to beef up as a direct result of SOX.

  • And last but not least, if you are an IT worker, then it's very likely that someone in your department will be busily working away trying to figure out whether or not to get you involved in the day-to-day details of putting in place, monitoring or testing for SOX 404 controls as year-end-closing draws near.

    Unfortunately, for far too many companies, SOX is an annual IT remediation and testing project that starts about Septemper and runs through the end of the calendar year, at breakneck pace and too shallow a touch to be very meaningful.

    Recall that in short, the law requires that:

  • The company must maintain adequate controls over financial reporting
  • The company must provide a statement about the method the company uses for evaluating their control over financial reporting controls
  • The company must disclose any material weaknesses in their accounting controls. (Material weaknesses are significant deficiencies in accounting control which can result in a "greater than remote" possibility that a material misstatement can appear undetected or unreported on their financial satements.) Needless to say, companies do everything in their power to succeed in a SOX audit in order NOT to have to report material weaknesses and give themselves a bad name!
  • The company's auditor issue an attestation regarding the managements own assessment of its financial reporting capabilities.

    How all these things happen varies from company to company. But the long and short of it is that until every company commits realistic assets and resources to aligning the company with the requirements of the regulations, then the token effort put forth every year is going to be enormously expensive and not a very good return on the investment.

    Oh, and some of us are quite proficient in helping companies figure our this SOX stuff. Feel free to be in touch and maybe I'll be able to help you learn more. Thanks for visiting SOX.LLX.COM.

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