A Matter of Perspective

Lora Bentley

Is the now four-year-old Sarbanes-Oxley Act a burden or a benefit? It all depends on how you view it.


For example, last week we mentioned a study from a University of Chicago professor that found compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley reporting requirements is good for foreign companies listed on U.S. markets. The professor said he would be surprised if foreign companies decided to leave the U.S. to avoid Sarbox compliance.


This week, MSNBC reports that Congressman Tom Feeney, who introduced a bill earlier this year that would exempt small companies from internal controls and financial reporting requirements, has christened himself an "economic Paul Revere" and set out to warn anyone within earshot that the Sarbox burden is causing -- or will soon cause -- foreign companies to depart U.S. markets for friendlier alternatives in Luxembourg, Shanghai, London, Hong Kong, and who knows where else. He calls the leak a "fire hydrant" and urges legislative changes.


Feeney may be one of the squeakiest wheels on the issue, but Paul Revere? We're not so sure. We've seen countless stories on how firms in other parts of the world are shaking in their shoes (with fear or anger, depending again on how you choose to view it) at the prospect of Sarbox compliance.


European firms, especially, seem to be scrambling, and at least twice now Sarbox concerns have even affected merger negotiations between U.S. and European stock exchanges.


But the controversy doesn't end there. Even in Australia, where only 6 percent of businesses are subject to Sarbox, some are concerned that fear of offending partners or customers will inhibit compliance efforts.

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