In the United States, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) has introduced new standards of accountability on the board of directors for U.S. companies or companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. Under the Act members of the board risk large fines and prison sentences in the case of accounting crimes. Internal control is now the direct responsibility of directors. This means that the vast majority of public companies now have hired internal auditors to ensure that the company adheres to the highest standards of internal controls. Additionally, these internal auditors are required by law to report directly to the audit board. This group consists of board of directors members where more than half of the members are outside the company and one of those members outside the company is an accounting expert
Sarbanes-Oxley contains 11 titles that describe specific mandates and requirements for financial reporting. Each title consists of several sections, summarized below.
1) Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB)
Title I consists of nine sections and establishes the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board , to provide independent oversight of public accounting firms providing audit services (« auditors »). It also creates a central oversight board tasked with registering auditors, defining the specific processes and procedures for compliance audits, inspecting and policing conduct and quality control, and enforcing compliance with the specific mandates of SOX.
2) Auditor Independence
Title II consists of nine sections, establishes standards for external auditor independence, to limit conflicts of interest. It also addresses new auditor approval requirements, audit partner rotation policy, conflict of interest issues and auditor reporting requirements. Section 201 of this title restricts auditing companies from doing other kinds of business apart from auditing with the same clients.
3) Corporate Responsibility
Title III consists of eight sections and mandates that senior executives take individual responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of corporate financial reports. It defines the interaction of external auditors and corporate audit committees, and specifies the responsibility of corporate officers for the accuracy and validity of corporate financial reports. It enumerates specific limits on the behaviors of corporate officers and describes specific forfeitures of benefits and civil penalties for non-compliance. For example, Section 302 implies that the company board (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer) should certify and approve the integrity of their company financial reports quarterly in order to establish accountability.
4) Enhanced Financial Disclosures
Title IV consists of nine sections. It describes enhanced reporting requirements for financial transactions, including off-balance-sheet transactions, pro-forma figures and stock transactions of corporate officers. It requires internal controls for assuring the accuracy of financial reports and disclosures, and mandates both audits and reports on those controls. It also requires timely reporting of material changes in financial condition and specific enhanced reviews by the SEC or its agents of corporate reports.
5) Analyst Conflicts of Interest
Title V consists of only one section, which includes measures designed to help restore investor confidence in the reporting of securities analysts. It defines the codes of conduct for securities analysts and requires disclosure of knowable conflicts of interest.
6) Commission Resources and Authority
Title VI consists of four sections and defines practices to restore investor confidence in securities analysts. It also defines the SEC’s authority to censure or bar securities professionals from practice and defines conditions under which a person can be barred from practicing as a broker, adviser or dealer.
7) Studies and Reports
Title VII consists of five sections and are concerned with conducting research for enforcing actions against violations by the SEC registrants (companies) and auditors. Studies and reports include the effects of consolidation of public accounting firms, the role of credit rating agencies in the operation of securities markets, securities violations and enforcement actions, and whether investment banks assisted Enron, Global Crossing and others to manipulate earnings and obfuscate true financial conditions.
8) Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability
Title VIII consists of seven sections and it also referred to as the “Corporate and Criminal Fraud Act of 2002”. It describes specific criminal penalties for fraud by manipulation, destruction or alteration of financial records or other interference with investigations, while providing certain protections for whistle-blowers.
9) White Collar Crime Penalty Enhancement
Title IX consists of two sections. This section is also called the “White Collar Crime Penalty Enhancement Act of 2002.” This section increases the criminal penalties associated with white-collar crimes and conspiracies. It recommends stronger sentencing guidelines and specifically adds failure to certify corporate financial reports as a criminal offense.
10) Corporate Tax Returns
Title X consists of one section. Section 1001 states that the Chief Executive Officer should sign the company tax return.
11) Corporate Fraud Accountability
Title XI consists of seven sections. Section 1101 recommends a name for this title as “Corporate Fraud Accountability Act of 2002”. It identifies corporate fraud and records tampering as criminal offenses and joins those offenses to specific penalties. It also revises sentencing guidelines and strengthens their penalties. This enables the SEC to temporarily freeze large or unusual payments.
An agency cost is an economic concept on the cost incurred by an organization that is associated with problems such as divergent management-shareholder objectives and information asymmetry. The costs consist of two main sources: 1. The costs inherently associated with using an agent (e.g. the risk that agents will use organizational resource for their own benefit) and 2. The costs of techniques used to mitigate the problems associated with using an agent (e.g the costs of producing financial statements or the use of stock options to align executive interests to shareholder interests).
The information asymmetry that exists between shareholders and the Chief Executive Officer is generally considered to be a classic example of a principal-agent problem. The agent (the manager) is working on behalf of the principal (the shareholders), who does not observe the actions of the agent. This information asymmetry causes the agency problems of moral hazard and adverse selection.
Agency costs mainly arise due to divergence of control, separation of ownership and control and the different objectives (rather than shareholder maximization)the managers consider. Managers usually want to satisfy their own objectives such as job-guarantee, less work by investing in pt projects(projects that are not valuable positively for the company) , by selecting projects with low payback period etc.
According to Ross and Westerfield (Corporate Finance, 7th edition): when a firm has debt, conflicts of interest arise between stockholders and bondholders. Because of this, stockholders are tempted to pursue selfish strategies, imposing agency costs on the firm. These strategies are costly, because they lower the market value of the whole firm. These strategies may be: 1. Incentive to take large risks; 2. Incentive toward underinvestment; 3. Milking the property.
Intellectual property (IP) is a legal field that refers to creations of the mind such as musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and related rights. Under intellectual property law, the holder of one of these abstract « properties » has certain exclusive rights to the creative work, commercial symbol, or invention by which it is covered.
Intellectual property rights give creators exclusive rights to their creations, thereby providing an incentive for the author or inventor to develop and share the information rather than keep it secret. The legal protections granted by IP laws are credited with significant contributions toward economic growth.