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Efforts to roll back some of the costliest and most controversial provisions of a 2002 corporate reform law gained steam last week as securities and accounting regulators said they were open to suggestions on how to change the rules that govern accounting disclosure. Prominent business leaders urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to relax the rules of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or SOX — passed by Congress four years ago to restore investor confidence in the wake of a series of accounting scandals — at a May 10 roundtable hosted by the commission and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). They argued that the cost of complying with the law outweighs its benefits, detailing widespread unease with certain of its provisions. The act�s Section 404, which requires company management to assess and publicly report on the effectiveness of the company�s internal controls to ensure accurate financial statements, has generated the most criticism. Relief is most likely to come for small businesses. Recent reports by an SEC advisory panel and the Government Accountability Office, Congress� research arm, have buoyed their cause by underscoring the inordinate compliance cost for small companies. Meanwhile, a House Republican plans to introduce legislation amending SOX, and a D.C. lobbying group represented by high-profile Republican lawyers has filed a suit challenging the law�s constitutionality. In his remarks at last week�s roundtable, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the act had the potential to improve financial reporting, but recognized that �in practice it hasn�t always worked out that way.� He indicated the SEC and the PCAOB were open to participants� suggestions on how to make the internal-contro

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