The Senate unanimously passed the corporate reform bill sponsored by Maryland Sen. Paul Sarbanes in response to a wave of bookkeeping scandals that have had Wall Street professionals and individual investors on edge for months.
The measure will create a new accounting oversight board and limit the consulting services that accounting firms can offer clients they audit. The bill passed by a 97-0 vote.
Additionally, the bill creates a new felony for securities fraud with a 10-year jail term and doubles the jail time for wire and mail fraud. Under the measure, corporate officers will be required to certify that financial statements are accurate.
The Senate's bill will now likely be reconciled with a measure that came out of the House of Representatives.
Washington has been increasingly in the spotlight as one high-profile case of corporate misconduct after another claims headlines across the country, and senators and representatives try to convince investors that they're prepared to get tough on white-collar crime.
Worries about the accuracy of corporate America's financial statements exploded last year when energy trader
collapsed in an accounting scandal. In recent months, telecom services company
, cable operator
and biotech outfit
have been been linked to wrondoing by their executives.