Maintaining the morale of employees charged with ensuring Sarbanes-Oxley compliance in their companies remains the largest challenge to 404 compliance, according to a just-released survey. Nearly half of the 200 executives participating in the 2005 Financial Executive Report, conducted by Oversight Systems, indicated that employee morale was the largest issue in SOX 404 compliance, while reducing internal and external costs ranked as the second-most-frequently cited challenge to ongoing compliance. "Obviously, complying with Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley has been extremely expensive," said Joseph V. Carcello, co-founder and director of research for the University of Tennessee's Corporate Governance Center and an advisor to Oversight Systems. "However, stronger controls lead to real benefits in the form of eliminating waste, eliminating abuse, and [producing] better information for improved decision-making." To reduce the burden on employees and compliance costs, 60 percent of financial executives surveyed said that they are implementing software that automates the manual processes required for compliance. Other survey findings included: o 49 percent said that SOX compliance resulted in reduced risk of fraud and errors; o 48 percent indicated that they now have more efficient financial operations; and, o 31 percent said that error rates have declined. The survey is available at

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