Catching up on e-mail this morning, I came across a report from business consulting and internal audit specialist Protiviti that the Securities and Exchange Commission has once again delayed the Sarbanes-Oxley 404(b) compliance deadline for smaller public companies. Are they kidding?
No, they aren't. And I shouldn't be surprised really, considering the SEC has done the same thing at least twice before. Once in Aug. 2006, once in June 2008, and again now. At least this time the delay is only nine months rather than an entire year. What's more, the press release includes an express statement from SEC Chair Schapiro that this is the last time. She says:
Since there will be no further Commission extensions, it is important for all public companies and their auditors to act with deliberate speed to move toward full Section 404 compliance.
As much as observers have indicated in the past that further delays should not be forthcoming, this is the first time we've heard directly from the top on the issue. Advice from Protiviti is simple, "This last reprieve will only be beneficial if the companies take advantage of it. Therefore, it is important that companies stay the course on their preparations."
After so many delays, the SEC's enforcement division will more than likely make a lasting example of any company that dares not be ready this time.