Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

Also known as: Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act; SOX; Sarbanes-Oxley; Sarbox

George W. Bush

Signed into law by George W. Bush
July 30, 2002

Passed in the wake of the Enron scandal, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) sets strict standards for financial behavior by publicly traded companies and protects employees against retaliation for blowing the whistle on violations of these standards. The law aims to protect investors by holding corporations and their leaders responsible for providing honest and complete reports on their operations. The whistleblower provision protects employees—both insiders and outsiders such as auditors—who report certain types of wrongdoing, forbidding the punishment of any good-faith effort to stop fraudulent activity. In 2014 the Supreme Court interpreted this protection very broadly, so that SOX now shields whistleblowers far beyond public companies.

Enforcement & Remedies

Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, employees who suffer illegal workplace retaliation must file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), within 180 days. OSHA will investigate complaints and can order remedies; employees who are unhappy with the result can appeal to an administrative judge at the DOL, with additional levels of review available within the DOL and in the federal courts. Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages.

Notable sponsors: Mike Oxley  Paul Sarbanes