An independent report, backed by data from Big Four clients, shows that corporate auditing costs for Sarbanes-Oxley 404 compliance dropped significantly in 2005.

Gregory Bell, a group vice president at CRA International, the Boston-based economic consulting firm which conducted the study, said the biggest reason for the decline was the learning curve effect. "This is their second year working under Sarbanes-Oxley, so it makes sense [public companies] realized significant efficiencies from handling it the second time around," he said.

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