Post-404, Fees Spiked 66 Percent: Study

Yet even those companies not yet required to comply with Sarbox's internal controls provision saw their fees rise by 42 percent, new research finds.

Between 2003 to 2005, the first three years in which many companies had to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley’s internal control provision, they saw their audit and audit-related fees soar by a whopping 66 percent, according to a new study. But the research also suggests that a big part of the cost spike for larger public issuers might not have stemmed from compliance with Sarbox 404, the controls provision.

Indeed, non-accelerated filers—companies still not yet required to comply with 404—saw a hefty fee rise of 42 percent in their, according to the data provided by Audit Analytics to Compliance Week. “This seems to tell me that there are a number of reasons audit fees have gone up that don’t have anything to do with Section 404,” Mark Cheffers, chief executive officer of Audit Analytics, told the publication. “Fundamentally, this analysis says that audit fee increases that have been attributed to 404 aren’t exclusively because of 404.” (Non-accelerated filers, generally speaking, have a public float of under $75 million.)

The findings are based on a study of thousands of corporate annual reports, according to the publication. The companies required to comply with 404 saw their audit and audit-related fees increase from a total of $5.1 billion in the first pre-compliance year to $8.5 billion in their second year of compliance. Between 2003 and 2005, the total fees that non-accelerated filers shouldered rose from $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion.

Both accelerated and non-accelerated filers saw sizable fees hikes from auditors over the period if they had restatements or some similar woes with its financial woes, according to the study. For instance, non-accelerated filers with reporting mishaps, saw their audit fees climb by more than 55 percent, while companies not burdened with such problems experience fee hikes of just 39 percent. At the same time, accelerated companies that had problems experienced an audit-fee jump of 72 percent, while problem-free accelerated filers saw their fees rise by 62 percent.

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