EDITORIAL: Unfortunately, Sarbanes-Oxley only hinders transparency in its attempts to encourage it

Sarbanes-Oxley is suddenly more than just a piece of remote legislation. The unilateral decision of Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic, Grey, and Publicis to not release revenue figures for their operating units was shocking and disheartening, not least to some of the agencies involved.

Sarbanes-Oxley is suddenly more than just a piece of remote legislation. The unilateral decision of Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic, Grey, and Publicis to not release revenue figures for their operating units was shocking and disheartening, not least to some of the agencies involved.

PRWeek has its own stake in this. We have for several years used these revenue figures, which were provided by the Council of Public Relations Firms, in our annual agency rankings issue. In spite of that, I have sympathy for the predicament of these companies. It is not unreasonable to assume that the new SEC disclosure rules may make them vulnerable if their operating units' numbers don't meet GAAP standards. Corporate America is coping with a whole new level of expectations from every kind of stakeholder, and the holding companies are no different. If I believed that the holding companies would, over the next 12 months, clarify their reporting, file 10Ks for all their subsidiaries, and commit to submitting these figures next year, I would be far more sanguine about it. But I fear that this year's closed books will become an ongoing trend for most - if not all - of these companies. The process involved in embracing that level of transparency is daunting, and the drawbacks, from the holding companies' viewpoint, surely outweigh the benefits. What a shame. While this has a serious impact on the advertising agencies involved, I feel most for the PR firms - and not just because they can't use the rankings as a marketing tool any longer. The biggest casualty is credibility. Even for firms with nothing to hide, the belief will be that they are indeed hiding. The perception of obfuscation violates the core principles of PR, ideals that have taken on a brand-new level of relevance in the aftermath of unseemly corporate scandals. I am a pragmatist, and I know that there is no room for philosophical debate when the SEC is involved. But many of the agencies I have spoken to feel angry and embarrassed by this decision. The holding companies should not underestimate the disenchantment of stakeholders forced to abandon closely held principles. PRWeek's Careers page gets a new look So long, Pandora. Our Careers page (p. 23) now features a group of recruitment and HR experts who will tackle a key employment issue each week. The new section is called Reply to All, and it shares space with another new element titled Required Reading. In this section, working PR professionals share their daily routines, including their reading and viewing habits. Where I Work has been redubbed A Day in the Life, and focuses less on the work environment and more on the person's responsibilities, philosophy in the workplace, and ambitions. The changes reflect our ongoing effort to disclose the daily challenges of PR practitioners at all levels of an organization. We hope that you enjoy these new elements, and encourage you to let us know what you think. If you would like to participate in A Day in the Life or Required Reading, or pose a question for our experts, please e-mail careers@prweek.com

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