Republicans scramble for own anti-fraud bill

This comes soon after a Senate Bill, led by Democrat senator Paul Sarbanes, revealed a raft of measures, including setting up a professional watchdog and a new clampdown on auditor independence.

The House Bill also calls for a professional watchdog, but one with less powers and with more representation from the profession.

On the auditor independence front, the House Bill is thought to be more lax, with it only wishing to ban firms from carrying out IT consulting or internal audits, but not from doing other kinds of consultancy work.

The House Bill also wants the SEC to study whether executives should forfeit profits from share transactions if there is suspicion of dodgy accounting methods. The Sarbanes Bill wants even tougher penalties including executives forfeiting their salaries for 12 months and facing the possibility of 10 years in jail.

Both sides of the political divide in the US have been spurred into action by the recent spate of corporate accounting disasters at WorldCom, Enron and Xerox which have seen investors lose confidence in corporate America and resulted in world stock markets tumbling.

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