The Federalism of State Corporate Law

Historically the regulation of corporate law has been firmly within the power and authority of the states. However, over the past few decades the federal government has become increasingly active in matters of corporate governance. Typically this occurs in waves as a response to periods of scandal in specific business sectors or in the financial markets. Traditionally, when the federal government intervenes in these situations, they enact regulation either directly or indirectly by imposing upon state corporate regulations.

Specifically, the predominant method of federal regulation of corporate governance is through the enactment of mandatory terms that either reverse or preempt state laws on the same point. The most recently prominent example is the passing of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX).

Sarbanes Oxley (SOX)

SOX regulates corporate governance in five matters: (i) SOX prevents corporations from engaging the same accounting firm to provide both audit and specified non-audit services; (ii) SOX requires that audit committees of listed companies be