The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002. Six years later, subject companies are still in the process of trying to comply with its provisions. Add in the fact that other countries are implementing similar financial regulations, some of which U.S. companies operating in those countries are subject to, and it’s easy to see why SOX compliance is still a hot issue.While it seems like everyone is still arguing about implementation issues and which companies should be subject to which provisions, the main effect of Sarbanes-Oxley is to move the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of financial reports from the outside auditor to the company’s management. “The accountant cooked the books!” is no longer acceptable. The company has to have sufficient internal controls and procedures to detect if the books are being cooked. Under Section 302, management has to certify the appropriateness and fairness of the financial statements, regardless of what an external auditor reports.

Financial reporting standards, as well as GAAP and best practices, have always required internal controls. With SOX, it’s your clients’ responsibility to prove that those internal controls actually exist and work the way they are supposed to. That’s a documentation issue as well as a process and workflow issue, and is the crux of Section 404.

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