Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society
Looking Back
July 30, 2012 The Sarbanes-Oxley Act: The First Decade: Michael Oxley, Mark Beasley and Paul Sarbanes


July 30, 2017 marks the 15th anniversary of the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), legislation responding to high-profile financial scandals in several major public companies. Congressional interest began in late 2001 with investigative hearings into Enron Corporation's accounting practices. The working relationship between the external accounting firm and company management had become collusive, and massive fraud was revealed.

In the spring of 2002, on the heels of the Enron debacle, additional financial frauds were uncovered in public companies, including Worldcom and Adelphia, further rocking the U.S. capital markets and profoundly undermining public confidence in the system of investor protection. This spurred definitive legislative action. With near unanimous, bi-partisan approval in the House and Senate, SOX was signed into law on July 30, 2002.

Among other changes, SOX resulted in new corporate governance requirements for companies and boards, new independence rules for external auditors, and a new regulator - the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board -- for accounting firms conducting audits of public companies.

To better understand this landmark legislation and the resulting regulations:

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