Mark Hynes - thoughts on corporate disclosure

Opinions on changing rules, changing best practices, and their effect on investor relations officers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How many reviews do we need?

The inevitable regulatory response to the challenges of the last few months is now in full swing. Yesterday’s Turner report focuses heavily on banks and the wider financial markets structures, but there are some clues for the wider corporate community of where change is coming.

One of these is in corporate governance where this week the Financial Reporting Council launched a review of the Combined Code to scrutinise board behaviour. And the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, has said that non-executives would in future need to commit more time and improve their technical skills.

Despite the Code having been reviewed as recently as 2007, the FRC said they felt the financial crisis justified another debate. Connected to this is the Walker Review commissioned by the Treasury into banks' corporate governance, complementing the FRC wider Combined Code review.

But much of yesterday’s headlines on the Turner review were about the end of light touch regulation. Whether we eventually see a much more fixed regulatory structure in the UK – and many hope we do not – is open to question. What we are undoubtedly already seeing is a tougher FSA enforcement regime.

With the rise and rise of the actions on market abuse, and the much debated actions against companies failing to disclose inside information, the FSA has laid out its stall to make enforcement a priority.

Finally Turner was also reported as taking aim at short selling, and whether it should be outlawed. With many regulators having ongoing public enquiries (UK, France, Australia...) and others having already instituted changes in the disclosure rules (Hong Kong, Bulgaria...) this signal will be watched carefully.

The challenge with these reviews is that they can (sometimes) turn into new rules. And in this instance, those may well impact IR.


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