While the costs of Sarbanes-Oxley continue to mount, the law's defenders enjoy claiming that it has performed the vital job of restoring investor confidence in the wake of the corporate scandals. No doubt those defenders will be heartened by a new study that shows that 62 percent of corporate executives agree that the law strengthened public and investor trust in corporate America.
After the jump, find out what this isn't such good news.
But the rest of the results of the survey make this look more like an indictment of Sarbanes-Oxley than a vindication. According to the National Survey of CEOs on Business Ethics, by Georgia State's Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility and Clemson's Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics, 74 per cent of executives said Sarbanes-Oxley had done nothing to improve ethical standards at their businesses. So all those millions spent for compliance have produced no results, according to the executives.
But if you combine these views, Sarbanes-Oxley's results are even more disturbing. Executives believe that Sarbanes-Oxley improved investor confidence without improving corporate behavior. You don't even have to squint your eyes very hard to see that, if the executives are right, this means investors have been lulled into a false sense of confidence by the law.
We've said before that the ideology of Investor Confidence is dangerous: it can lead to policies intended to instill an unwarranted confidence in the stock market. This divergence between effect on ethics and effect on confidence is good reminder that you can't spell "Investor Confidence" with a "con." Who says you can't put lipstick on a pig?
Survey: CEOs view Sarbanes-Oxley as ineffective, burdensome [George State University via Sox First]