Survey Finds Improvement in Internal Control Over Financial Reporting Since Passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, According to New Protiviti Research

Automation of internal controls cited as key focus area

Jun 04, 2012, 13:00 ET from Protiviti

MENLO PARK, Calif., June 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Ten years after the signing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the majority of executives and other professionals surveyed say the internal control over financial reporting structure in their organizations has significantly or moderately improved since compliance with the legislation became a requirement, according to a new study from Protiviti (, a global consulting firm.


"Sarbanes-Oxley has had its share of controversy in the past, but nearly 70 percent of respondents in our survey reported that the internal control over financial reporting structure in their organizations has improved since compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 became a requirement," said Brian Christensen, Protiviti's executive vice president, global internal audit.  "Companies are still learning and working to improve continuously the quality of their internal controls as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of their compliance processes, even 10 years later."

The majority of executives surveyed said they also are focusing on automation of their companies' internal controls to realize the full benefit of the landmark legislation; in fact, only 17 percent of respondents said they have no plans for further automation. "Automating key controls likely represents the 'final frontier' in terms of significant Sarbanes-Oxley process improvement and cost savings," said Jim DeLoach, a Protiviti managing director and the firm's senior SOX practice leader as well as a key survey architect. Automation provides significant opportunities for setting a proactive/preventive tone to the internal control environment and supporting the mission to simplify and streamline business processes, gain greater efficiency and achieve long-term cost savings. 

Protiviti's 2012 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey ( – which includes feedback from nearly 600 executives and other professionals who are involved with or have a stake in the SOX compliance process – explores the many issues companies address related to SOX, from cost and resource constraints to achieving a stronger internal control environment and improved operational efficiency and effectiveness. This is the third year Protiviti has conducted the survey. 

"Sarbanes-Oxley and its subsequent laws and regulatory guidance have had significant effects on corporate America,"said Christensen. "Over the past decade, opinions of SOX have evolved as much as the law itself. Our survey results reflect this changing sentiment. We were also pleased to see the large number of respondents to this year's survey as it indicates a high level of interest in improving the compliance process."

Key Survey Findings
Other key findings from Protiviti's 2012 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey include:

  • According to respondents, the top benefit of SOX is "enhanced understanding of control design and control operating effectiveness" (44 percent), followed closely by "internal audit's ability to perform more traditional audits" (43 percent). "The percentage of responses in these top categories is markedly lower than those from the 2011 survey," Christensen said. "However, our 2012 survey presents clear evidence that many companies are still focused on reducing the number of key controls, streamlining the total population of controls, narrowing the overall assessment scope, decreasing the number of manual controls and increasing the number of automated controls."
  • Companies, regardless of size or year of compliance, plan to maintain their current level of spending on compliance in the upcoming fiscal year – a possible indicator that organizations have the compliance process well-managed and under control.
  • A majority of large organizations (73 percent) leverage their SOX compliance efforts to drive continuous improvement in business processes that affect financial reporting, and a significant majority of organizations that are beyond their fourth year of compliance (69 percent) do so.

Webinar and Podcast Explore Survey's Results
Protiviti will host a complimentary 90-minute webinar on June 5 at 9:00 a.m. PDT to review the results of its SOX compliance survey. To register for the webinar, please visit

Additionally, a podcast about the survey results and their implications for public companies is available at

Conducted in late 2011 and early 2012, Protiviti's 2012 Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Survey gathered insights from professionals at companies with gross annual revenues ranging from less than $100 million to more than $20 billion. Respondents included chief audit executives, chief financial officers, corporate Sarbanes-Oxley and Project Management Office leaders, chief compliance officers, and others involved with SOX. Eighty percent of respondents work for companies in or beyond their fourth year of SOX compliance and 68 percent are from large or accelerated filers. The survey is available for download at:

About Protiviti
Protiviti ( is a global consulting firm that helps companies solve problems in finance, technology, operations, governance, risk and internal audit. Through its network of more than 70 offices in over 20 countries, Protiviti has served more than 35 percent of FORTUNE® 1000 and Global 500 companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies.

Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half International is a member of the S&P 500 index.

Protiviti is not licensed or registered as a public accounting firm and does not issue opinions on financial statements or offer attestation services.

Editor's note:  infographic available upon request.

SOURCE Protiviti