A ruling is expected soon in the case against the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) that is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Washington Post columnist Jane Bryant Quinn reports that if the PCAOB goes down, Sarbanes-Oxley as a whole will more than likely go down with it.
According to Linda Lord, a legislative specialist at financial services firm UBS, the court will likely decide against the PCAOB, and Sarbanes-Oxley -- if it survives -- will be a ghost of its former self. Even if Congress goes in to change the structure of the PCAOB so that it is constitutional, Lord says, the lawsuit's resolution could leave Sarbox open to attack. Small businesses will renew their requests for exemption (Wait, I don't think those requests ever stopped, did they?) and foreign companies will have more evidence with which to argue that the law should not apply to them.
Groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which are supporting the lawsuit, say that Sarbanes-Oxley doesn't help management and is not good for investors, but Duke Law professor James Cox and writer Quinn appear to be of the same mind. Cox says the smaller the company, the more likely it is that fraud exists. Audit rules may need to be simplified, Quinn suggests, but they should apply to all public companies, regardless of size.
On the other hand, if the court decides in the PCAOB's favor, this story doesn't end. Expect the plaintiffs to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.