The cost of integrity is proving to be too high for some firms. In recent weeks, several surveys have revealed that corporate governance costs have soared, as many companies, especially smaller and midcap firms, scramble to comply with the terms of the Sarbanes Oxley Act enacted last July. The new data could help some business leaders to lobby Congress for amendments to the new regulations, which they see as too sweeping and unfair. Still, reform isn't likely to be forthcoming any time soon, particularly because some experts say rising fees are a necessary part of restoring trust and that companies could ultimately end up saving money on litigation costs. Studies by three separate firms recently have shown a big jump in compliance expenses. Law firm Foley & Lardner surveyed 40 chief executives, finance chiefs and other executives (mostly from mid- and small-cap firms) and reviewed the proxy statements of 450 public companies to gauge how corporate governance outlays have risen since the new regulations were signed into law. On the basis of a review of Securities and Exchange Commission filings, partner Lance Kimmel said director compensation and auditing fees rose at a much faster rate in 2002 compared with the prior year. He noted that fees to accountants were up between 27% and 35% last year, depending on the size of the firm. That compares with a year-over-year increase of just 2% to 11.7% in 2001. "Many of these increases are considered 'leading edge' ... since results for fiscal 2002 do not include a full year of Sarbanes Oxley or full implementation of Sarbanes Oxley-related requirements," Foley & Lardner said in a report. Kimmel noted that many small-cap companies are seeing double-digit percentage increases in legal fees and that many middle-market companies expect costs directly associated with being public to increase by almost 100% as a result of new SEC rules and changes to exchange listing requirements.