Those who have suffered through this column for the past six-and-a-half years are probably by now well aware of my disdain for frivolous lawsuits.
I won't use this issue's space to rehash my feelings on the necessity for tort reform or the vacuous merit of the flood of absurd litigation that currently logjams court dockets throughout the country, but rather let's focus on pointless lawsuits.
Specifically, one that drew headlines several months ago, when a small Nevada audit firm filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and, by proxy, Sarbanes-Oxley, the corporate reform law that ordered that the overseer to the audit profession be created in the first place. The plaintiff, Beckstead & Watts LLP of Henderson, Nev., predicated its case on the argument that the president should appoint the members of the PCAOB, because the private-sector entity functions as part of the government, as opposed to being part of its direct report, the Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm was later joined in the fray by tax and government reform group the Free Enterprise Fund.
But let's go back 18 months or so.
In September 2005, the PCAOB released an inspection report that examined some 16 of B&W's 61 audit clients - comprised largely of micro-cap and development companies - and identified audit deficiencies in eight of them. So it's fair to say that the firm is not one of the audit watchdog's bigger fans. But the ideology behind the suit goes a bit further than simply receiving an unsatisfactory report card from a no-nonsense instructor.
No, the greater impetus behind this litigation is, of course, an attempt to pare down the layers of SOX compliance, including the act's favorite political football - Section 404.
In one of the saner rulings, U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled against the suit in a 14-page filing.
And in a perfect world, that should have been it. But the legal world, as we all know, is far from perfect, and the plaintiffs immediately said that they would plan an appeal.
Not exactly a surprise there.
It's hard to believe that SOX is now approaching its fifth anniversary. And while the SEC has, in fact, pushed back the 404 compliance dates on a number of occasions, its chairman, Christopher Cox, has reiterated his support for SOX in no uncertain terms and stated that the law is here to stay - at least for the foreseeable future.
I doubt you'll encounter many who argue that SOX is perfect. Could it be tweaked here and there to accommodate filers of different sizes? Of course. Nonetheless, I say let's move on. Unfortunately, we now have an appeal to look forward to.
I'm sure that one or two former employees from companies such as Enron and WorldCom would be more than willing to offer their thoughts during the appeals process.
That is, if they can afford the cab fare to get there.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access