Fixing Sarbanes-Oxley

Here’s an interesting piece that says it’s hurting small investors:

Today, it is much harder to get in on the firms that could be the next Home Depot, unless you are a super-wealthy investor that can participate in private equity deals. According to BusinessWeek, the median market cap of a company going public was $52 million in the mid-1990s. Today, it’s $227 million. This means that average investors are increasingly shut out of a company’s emerging growth stages, where they would, yes, take the most risks, but also could reap the biggest returns.

The most costly provision, Section 404, forces auditors and executives to sign off not only on the accuracy of financial statements, but also on a company’s internal controls. The unaccountable Public Company Accounting Oversight Board created by the law has defined “internal controls” very broadly, to include a firm’s software and other items that have little relevance to financial statements. Some say the law should be called the Accountants Full Employment Act.

As usual, hard cases make bad law. This gross overreaction to the Enron debacle can only make it harder for space entrepreneurs to raise money. Here’s hoping for some reform.