FEI helps shape new governance law.

Author:Livingston, Phil
Position:Financial Executives International - Brief Article - President's Page

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is significant and complex. While the heart of the bill addresses the regulatory mechanisms for public company auditing firms, impacting our members only indirectly, there are many other provisions that aren't so benign, from our perspective. FEI participated actively in the Act's passage, wary from the early stages that the crisis in confidence might force Congress and the President to act. We worked to gain inclusion of FEI's key points and modify the troublesome provisions as much as possible.

Our participation effectively started with FEI's 12 recommendations for strengthening financial management, financial reporting and corporate governance. The task force that compiled those recommendations took early stands on tough issues that later rippled through the positions and regulations. These positions related to the financial experts on audit committees, codes of conduct, independent whistleblower protection mechanisms and hiring auditors for top company positions

While our overall objective was to gain widespread adoption of the recommendations without a new law, we recognized the significant threat of the legislation being formulated without our input. Though FEI historically has not been a political heavyweight (we don't have a political action committee or organize member political contributions), the situation and the strength of our recommendations propelled us to the forefront.

In addition to these leadership stands, the final provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act regarding auditor independence are, in essence, the same as FEI's recommendation calling for prohibitions on certain services -- including, importantly, that audit committees approve all non-audit services provided by the external auditor.

Grace Hinchman, FEI's senior vice president for public affairs, based in our Washington office, did a tremendous job meeting with the key congressional staff members of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee. Because our financial resources are limited, we raised funds through a special solicitation. One leading company contributed $25,000 to the cause, and many contributed smaller amounts. My heartfelt thanks go out to them all. This funding allowed us to hire a leading Washington lobbyist, Larry Sidman of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker.

As a team, we drafted legislative wording reflecting the FEI recommendations, when appropriate, and met with Rep. Oxley (R-Ohio), Sen...

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