The Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the ‘Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act’ and ‘Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act’ and commonly called Sarbanes–Oxley, Sarbox or SOX, is a United States federal law enacted on July 30, 2002. It is named after sponsors U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Michael G. Oxley (R-OH).
The bill was enacted as a reaction to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals including those affecting Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems and WorldCom. These scandals, which cost investors billions of dollars when the share prices of affected companies collapsed, shook public confidence in the financial markets.
The legislation set new and enhanced standards for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms. It does not apply to privately held companies. The act contains 11 titles, or sections, ranging from additional corporate board responsibilities to criminal penalties, and requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement rulings on requirements to comply with the new law. The act also covers issues such as auditor independence, corporate governance, internal control assessment and enhanced financial disclosure.
President George W. Bush signed it into law, stating it included “the most far-reaching reforms of American business practices since the time of Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
Debate continues over the perceived benefits and costs of SOX. Supporters contend the legislation was necessary and has played a useful role in restoring public confidence in the capital markets by, among other things, strengthening corporate accounting controls. Opponents of the bill claim it has reduced America’s international competitive edge against foreign financial service providers, saying SOX has introduced an overly complex regulatory environment into U.S. financial markets.