SEC wants SMBs to vent SOX pains

Small business executives have one week left to let the SEC Advisory Committee on Smaller Public Companies know what they really think of SOX.

If you've been wanting to tell the Securities and Exchange Commission what you think of Sarbanes-Oxley, now is your chance.

The SEC Advisory Committee on Smaller Public Companies is soliciting online opinions from CEOs of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) on a range of topics related to SOX and other federal securities laws. The committee is asking that answers be submitted by Aug. 31, 2005. It will use some of the opinions to prepare a formal report to the SEC in April 2006.

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Last December the SEC named the advisory committee specifically to examine and address the impact of SOX and other federal securities laws on SMBs. In a survey currently posted on its Web site, the committee poses 29 questions. The questionnaire touches on a range of topics, from Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 to whether compliance costs are stopping SMBs from going public -- and whether SMBs should simply be exempt from the whole process.

The committee is apparently trying to prompt thoughtful answers. One question reads: "Are the current accounting standards applied to all U.S. companies appropriate for smaller companies? If not, please explain what revisions to existing standards might be appropriate." Another asks: "Is the loan prohibition contained in SOX creating a hardship for smaller companies? If so, explain the manner in which this hardship is being created. Do the benefits to companies and investors outweigh the hardships?"

The survey does not establish guidelines for qualifying as a small business. Instead, it offers this advice: "You should not assume that there is a set cut-off in size of smaller companies in responding to the Advisory Committee's request. For example, answers reflecting experiences of management or investors regarding companies with sales or market capitalization of $100 million, or $750 million, (or even more) are appropriate where answers provide a basis for considering the company to be a smaller company. You should indicate in your answers the size of the company or companies and the basis of measurement (e.g., sales, market capitalization, number of employees) to which your answers relate."

The survey can be found at the SEC Web site.

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