The longer a company has been in compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley, the higher the percentage of executives who say the benefits outweigh the costs, according to a new study released by global risk ad internal audit consulting firm Protiviti.

According to Protiviti’s 2010 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Review, 70 percent of executives in their fourth year of SOX compliance indicated that compliance and spending have evolved significantly, compared to just 39 percent in their first year of compliance with Section 404.

The survey, which polled more than 400 U.S. executives, assesses the current state of SOX compliance, related costs, associated benefits and value, as well as how to achieve a state of verifiable compliance and sustainability.

Executives reported, on average, a 50 percent reduction in compliance costs among companies in their fourth year and beyond. In addition, most survey participants (87 percent) believe SOX compliance offers some benefit beyond simply fulfilling SEC regulations.

Other findings included:

•    Nearly 80 percent of all organizations indicated they automate less than half of their key controls, indicating an opportunity to increase efficiency. However, most respondents said their organizations had minimal plans for additional automation.

•    More than 70 percent of respondents indicated a high dependency on making it the top inefficiency negatively impacting SOX compliance efforts.

•    Thirty-five percent of respondents said they plan to use continuous monitoring tools or techniques this year as a key part of their SOX compliance strategy.

•    Close to half of respondents perform all of their SOX compliance work in-house. Outsourcing of SOX work is typically highest during the initial compliance years.

To view the report, visit www.protiviti.com/soxsurvey.