After the market turmoil caused by the recent wave of corporate scandals, Aug. 14 is looming as a big day. That's the Securities & Exchange Commission's deadline for chief executives and chief financial officers of major U.S. companies to certify the veracity of their outfits' financial reports. And it's shaping up as a major test for market and investor sentiment as it approaches.
To recap, CEOs and CFOs of U.S. companies with at least $1.2 billion in revenues must both separately do one of two things: swear under oath to the accuracy of recent financial reports or state under oath what facts and events prevent them from making this statement. Companies can request a five-day delay for quarterly reports and a 15-day waiver for annual releases. The officers responsible for certifying the books will be liable if the reports are subsequently found to be misleading.
ON THE HOOK. A list companies that must comply can be found at the SEC's Web site at http://www.sec.gov/rules/extra/ceocfo.htm. It will be regularly updated with the tally of companies that have signed off. Nine major names were on the list as of this writing: AMR (AMR), Corning (GLW), Delphi Automotive (DPH), Fiserv (FISV), EDS (EDS), FedEx (FDX), PepsiCo (PEP), Qualcomm (QCOM), and Textron (TXT).
Many more will follow, of course. But with top brass now more directly responsible for the accuracy of their companies' books, Wall Street will be listening intently for the sound of more accounting shoes dropping as the deadline draws near. From Standard & Poor's/MMS International staff analysts