Companies are being offered a range of products to help them prepare for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley (Sox) Act, as lawyers warn that not all will be ready in time.
Any company with a listing on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has to comply with Sox, even if it is a European company headquartered outside of the US.
The law will affect storage of electronic records as well as finances.
And although UK subsidiaries of US corporations may not be directly affected, they will have to ratify the integrity of the data and reporting they share with their US parent.
Rick Mitchell, partner at US law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, warned that the risks to dual-listed UK companies from Sox should not be dismissed.
"Sox basically means all relatively large companies will be affected. A British company with a NYSE listing that has trouble with reporting from its Indian office, for example, will have to be very careful."
Mitchell said many companies will not be ready in time because their budgets are focused on costs other than accounting and data compliance.
But the law includes penalties of up to 20 years in prison for chief executives and chief finance officers, and fines of up to $5m per violation, per person.
These new levels of compliance will lead to major changes in the way companies store and reuse data, and IT vendors are spying a new market.
IBM is offering a series of services to help companies with compliance. It has launched a hosted email archive and management service to facilitate capture of large volumes of email and internal or instant messaging, as well as other data retention and disposal technologies.
A US survey by IBM found that only one in 10 financial executives thought their internal controls were compliant with Sox.
"There is a lot of convergence between Sox, operational risk with Basel II and the Patriot Act, and general business performance. A single framework can now cover compliance and identify business process efficiencies," said Pierre Pourquery, IBM global head of risk and compliance for financial services.
Some companies might weigh up the cost of withdrawing from the NYSE against updating their IT systems, he added.
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