• United States

Sarbanes-Oxley: the curse imposed because of the misdeeds of a few

Feb 24, 20063 mins
Data Center

While the Sarbanes-Oxley statute enacted in 2002 was aimed at the financial side of a business, it has had a profound impact on IT as well.  IT managers have had to divert countless resources to implementing new procedures and installing new software to help audit and document the financial aspects of a company.  An article on says it best:

“For most bound by Sarbanes-Oxley, compliance means a brute force implementation of software solutions needed to create the audit trail and data verification processes required under the legislation. But where brute force implementation occurred, the information technology systems making up the backbone of an institution’s business haven’t necessarily been revamped. To prevent their compliance strategies from being shortsighted, many lenders and creditors are using Sarbanes-Oxley as the impetus for taking a harder look at how their IT infrastructure impacts their business strategy. Subsequently, many lenders and creditors are expected to leverage Sarbanes-Oxley to refine their core IT infrastructures in 2005, hoping to create greater operating efficiencies.”

The costs to comply with “SOX” are enormous.  The Economist cites a study by Ivy Xiying Zhang of the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester.  Zhang’s estimate of the net private cost of compliance amounts to $1.4 trillion.  A more conservative estimate placed the cost of compliance in 2005 at $5.8 billion.  No matter what figures you use, the costs are exorbitant, and the only ones who benefit are the compliance software vendors and consultants.

Richard Rhan wrote in The Washington Times that SOX is “a poster child for a government act whose cures are worse than the disease.” I doubt you’d find many corporate executives who disagree with that assessment.  The majority of the upright and honest companies are suffering because of the actions of a few high profile deviants at companies like Enron, Worldcom, Adelphia and HealthSouth.

And speaking of the deviants at Enron, the federal trial of former chairman and CEO Ken Lay and former CEO Jeff Skilling is taking place right now in a Houston courtroom.  Since I live in Houston and was personally affected by Enron’s collapse, I am following the trial on a daily basis.  I won’t pass judgment on guilt or innocence at this point, but the testimony so far has been quite interesting.  Catch up on it yourself at

In the wake of all the corporate scandals in 2001 and 2002, I can understand how the federal government had a knee-jerk reaction and quickly passed the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.  Perhaps now it’s time to revisit that decision and lighten up on some of the screws that have been put to large American corporations.