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The Sarbanes-Oxley Act And Business Ethics

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In 2002, the US passed the Sarbanes ÐŽV Oxley Law. This law was enacted to strengthen Corporate governance and to restore lost faith by the investors, and to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of corporate disclosures. U.S. Senator, Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley were the sponsors of said law. It was signed into law on July 30, 2002 by George W. Bush after both houses of Congress voted on it without changes 423 to 3 in the House and in the Senate 99 to 0 for an overwhelming approval (Six Sigma).

The law came to be due to accounting scandals that occurred in a number of prominent companies in the United States. Those companies were Enron, Tyco International and World Com (MCI). World Com revealed that it had overstated it earnings by more than 3.8 billion for the past five quarters in June 25, 2002. They were able to do this by improperly accounting for its operating costs (Sarbanes ÐŽV Oxley Act). Due to these scandals the public trust was damaged and questions were raised as to practices in the accounting a reporting of these companies (Sarbanes ÐŽV Oxley Act).

The Sarbanes ÐŽV Oxley Law involves a wide area of involvement and covers new and or enhanced standards applicable to all U.S. public companies boards, Management and public accounting firms (Six Sigma).

The SOX Law requires the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) to implement new rulings in order to comply with the new law. This law is covered in 11 titles, and covers Corporate Board responsibilities as well as the criminal penalties if there is failure to comply (Six Sigma).

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Sarbanes-Oxley)

Title I

„« Public Company Accounting Oversight Board

Title II

„« Auditor Independence

Title III

„« Corporate Responsibility

Title IV

„« Enhanced Financial Disclosures

Title V

„« Analyst Conflicts Of Interest

Title VI

„« Commission Resources And Authority

Title VII

„« Studies And Reports

Title VIII

„« Corporate And Criminal Fraud Accountability

Title IX

„« White-Collar Crime Penalty Enhancements

Title X

Corporate Tax Returns

Title XI

„« Corporate Fraud And Accountability

In summary the Sarbanes ÐŽV Oxley Law encompasses the following:

„« ÐŽ§Establishes new standards for Corporate Boards and Audit Companies

„« Establishes new accountability standards and criminal penalties for Corporate Management

„« Establishes new independence standards for External Auditors

„« Establishes a Public Company Accountability Oversight Board (PCAOB) under the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to oversee public accounting firms and issue accounting standards.ЎЁ (Six Sigma)

In the Harris Interactive poll in the Wall Street Journal, 55% of U.S.ЎЁ investors believe that financial and accounting regulation governing publicly held companies and too lenientЎЁ, this being 3 years after enactment of the law. Only one-quarter of investors feel the law has made the communication of financial information much ÐŽ§moreЎЁ or ÐŽ§somewhat more transparentЎЁ, with 11% believe that it is less transparent (Sarbanes ÐŽV Oxley Act).

Ethics apply not only to business and economic policy, but all aspects of human behavior. They tell us how we should act in certain situations and often it incorporates laws to govern this behavior. Ethics are not the same as feelings although they often play into decisions that are made. Some are better at this than others and often decisions must be made that feel good but are fundamentally wrong. Our feelings can make us feel uncomfortable while doing the right thing as well. Ethics is not a religion as not all are religious. However, ethics do apply to everyone in some form or the other. Religion as good as it may be does not address all problems and or issues. Even though laws are a good system, it does not always follow ethical standards. Law can deviate from what is ethical due to power struggles of narrow groups. Law can also be slow to address issues if power is corrupt and the issue can get well out of hand before the law is enacted. Ethics do not always follow cultural norms. For example, slavery in the United States before the Civil War, the South was accustom to having slaves on plantations. And though some of these slaves were treated very well, others were not. The North felt is was culturally wrong to own another human being. Finally, ethics is not a science. Although science both social and natural can give us valuable data to help in making better choices ethically, it cannot tell us what we should do (Markkula).

Making an ethical decision is often difficult and the problems that must be identified are two fold. 1. We have to ask on what do we base our ethical standards, and 2. How do these standards get applied to specific situations we face (Markkula)?

Ethicists and philosophers have suggested five different sources of ethical standards that should be used:

„« The Utilitarian Approach

„« The rights approach

„« The fairness or justice approach

„« The common good approach

„« The Virtue approach

Each of these helps us to make decisions as to what standards are applicable, however the problem(s) must be solved. We may not agree on the content or the same set of human and civil rights or what constitutes common good or what will or will not do harm.

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