Sarbanes-Oxley compliance paid off big time for audit firms in the past five years, with median fees shooting up 345 percent, according to a study by the Corporate Library.

The research firm found that the total fees paid to auditors in fiscal 2006 reached $10.5 billion, compared to $6.4 billion in 2001. Naturally the Big Four firms are getting the lion's share of those fees, covering 95 percent of public corporations with market caps exceeding $750 million. But they are starting to see competition. The number of audit firms in the market increased from nine in 2001 to 22 in 2006.

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