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Study: Compliance Troubles Execs

With the Enron and Parmalat scandals making waves, accountability is Topic A in corporate boardrooms.

According to a survey of 135 companies conducted by Meta Group on behalf of PricewaterhouseCoopers, issues of corporate governance, risk, and compliance are perplexing executives and directors as they seek the right combination of people, processes, and technology.

In the United States, companies are racing to meet a deadline for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act's Section 404, which requires executives and auditors to attest to the effectiveness of internal controls over financial reporting. For most companies, the deadline will arrive early next year when they file their 2004 annual reports.

Most organizations lack real-time event, process, and reporting capabilities. They rely on manual processes for compliance, although they expect to implement technology-based solutions, such as XBRL and XML. Technology is a "critical enabler" in achieving accountability, says Dan DiFilippo, head of PricewaterhouseCoopers' governance, risk, and compliance practice.

According to another survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Economist Intelligence Unit, 53% of financial institutions rate risk to their reputation as the biggest threat to their business. Compliance with internal controls is seen as more important than compliance with statutory guidelines in guarding against risk to their reputation.