What Does Your IT Team Need to Know About SOX Compliance?


(Part 2 in our series on IT Compliance Concerns.)

In Part 1 of our series, we discussed how the Sarbanes­Oxley (Sarbox or SOX) Act was created

in response to financial and accounting fraud including the Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco scandals;

who SOX compliance affects; and the possible benefits to non­public companies working toward

becoming SOX compliant. In this part, our focus is on SOX compliance and the concerns it raises

for Information Technology managers and their departments.

What are the primary Information Technology concerns for SOX compliance?

Sarbanes­Oxley compliance focuses on the retention of audit trails, generally in the form of logs

files and electronic records that contain, relate to, or comment on financial data. (These records

often relate to the generation of financial statements that will be submitted to shareholders and

the SEC.) According to SOX regulations, these audit trails may not be destroyed, altered, or

falsified, and must be retained and auditable for five years. Sarbanes­Oxley regulations define

which records to store and how long to store them.

This means that almost every aspect of IT operations will be affected. Messaging, storage,

virtualization, networking, and more can all be involved as long as they relate to any financial data

or activity. Additionally, new platforms for communication such as blogs, wikis, social media, and

more, lead to new compliance concerns. If communication pertains to finance and accounting, IT

professionals must track and archive it in order to be prepared for compliance audits.

This is a sharp contrast to the past, where an IT department’s major focus was usually on being

able to restore failed systems. Now, with the additional regulatory requirements of the Sarbanes-
Oxley Act, IT’s focus must also include data retention and accessibility in the event of an


What kinds of information does IT need to store with regard to SOX compliance, and how?

In general, spreadsheets, documents, and emails used to arrive at final financial conclusions.

Electronic media, which can include CD­ROMs and cartridge tapes, are the preferred storage

methods. Just some of the additional data IT needs to store according to SOX data retention

regulations includes:

● Three years ­ Employment applications, general correspondence, credit card receipts, and

employment records.

● Five years ­ Customer invoices, vendor invoices, purchase orders, sales records, state

unemployment tax records, accident records and workers’ unemployment records, and

salary records.

● Seven years ­ Accounts payable ledger, accounts receivable ledger, time cards, product

inventory, payroll and payroll tax records, tax returns, sales tax information and returns,

business expense records, bank statements, earning records. Public companies and

registered public accounting firms must also maintain audit work papers for seven years,

and employee promotion, demotion, or discharge records must be retained for seven

years after employment is terminated.

● Permanent retention ­ Bank statements, contracts and leases, employee payroll records,

legal correspondence, training manuals, union agreements, Articles of Incorporation,

executive/board policies and resolutions, bylaws, chapter charter, state sales returns,

financial statements, depreciation schedules, check registers, payroll registers,

employment and termination agreements, and insurance policies.

Do non­public companies also need to be concerned with SOX compliance?

While the Sarbanes­Oxley Act applies primarily to publicly listed companies, Section 802 of the

act states that private companies can be faced with fines, and their executives with up to twenty

years of imprisonment for the knowing destruction, alteration, or falsification of records with the

intent to impede or influence a federal investigation.

Further, if you do business with a public company, you may have found that some of these

companies require their vendors to become SOX compliant.

Finally, there are advantages to private companies to become SOX compliant. Adopting SOX-
compliance controls and procedures can improve your organization’s overall IT security program.

And working toward SOX compliance can also help an organization make headway in other areas

such as PCI DSS compliance (which we will discuss later in our series on IT compliance


Coming soon: Part 3 in our series on IT Compliance Concerns, “Your Company and HIPAA


To read more about SOX:

● For up­to­date information on the Sarbanes­Oxley Act, you can check the Securities and

Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) website.

● You can also learn more about Information Technology concerns created by the

Sarbanes­Oxley Act in TechTarget’s e­handbook, The SOX Effect.