It's time to think outside the Sarbox. In the wake of that historic (to be polite) 2002 legislation, audit fees and related expenses skyrocketed as accounting firms and their clients struggled to meet the law's new requirements for internal-controls certification and other mandates.
Now the pendulum is swinging hard in the other direction, and companies are poised to take full advantage. It's a buyer's market for auditing services, and many CFOs we spoke to for this month's cover story are finding their bargaining position is very strong, regardless of whether they switch or stay with their current provider. Are you getting the best possible price? In "Auditing Your Auditor," editorial director Tim Reason takes you on a tour of the current market realities, replete with the latest data and analysis from our new Audit Fee Benchmarking Report service.
If audit fees are moving in a good direction, the same can't be said for foreign-exchange rates. Managing forex may become even more vexing if China lets its currency float, as many expect, but senior editor Kate O'Sullivan describes several strategies that can minimize the impact of all this volatility on cash flows. (See "Painful Conversions.")
Many employees are wondering whether their 401(k) account balances will afford them a comfortable retirement. The number expressing confidence in that regard is down significantly from a few years ago. What has the fiscal crisis taught companies about how to manage such plans? A fair amount, as it turns out. Companies may have scaled back or eliminated matching contributions, but in other ways they are becoming substantially more involved in guiding employees' 401(k) accounts. Senior editor Alix Stuart lays out a range of options in "Sea Change."
Finally, our latest Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey finds CFOs slightly more optimistic about their companies' prospects, and willing to loosen the purse strings as a result. Well, some purse strings, anyway. Capex spending seems poised for a rebound, but hiring plans remain firmly on hold.