On 6 November 2019, Hong Kong’s Security and Futures Commission (SFC) issued a position paper setting out a new regulatory framework for the licensing of centralised virtual asset trading platforms, following the SFC’s conceptual framework issued last year.
The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) have reached a consensus to commence preparations for an investor identification regime for southbound trading of the Mainland-Hong Kong Stock Connect (Stock Connect).
On 4 October 2019, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) published proforma terms and conditions which will apply to virtual asset fund managers that meet specified criteria.
This follows the SFC’s statement of 1 November 2018 regarding the regulatory framework for virtual asset fund managers, fund distributors and trading platform operators (see our e-bulletin of 2 November 2018 for further details), in which the SFC indicated (among other things) that it would impose terms and conditions on certain virtual asset fund managers.
The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has recently issued a circular on the outcome of its survey and inspection of selected fund managers regarding their liquidity risk management practices.
The SFC noted inadequacies and deficiencies in a number of areas. These are set out in the appendix to the circular, together with observations and examples of such inadequacies and deficiencies, and the SFC’s expected standards (see overview below).
Last Friday, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) issued a circular to announce the launch of a key risk indicator (KRI) platform to collect and analyse KRI data from selected licensed corporations (LCs).
The platform is aimed at facilitating the SFC’s supervision of global firms which are exposed to the changing dynamics of global markets. It supplements the SFC’s existing monitoring tools and enhances the SFC’s information gathering and analytical capabilities to better identify and manage existing and emerging risks.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange has finalised its proposed amendments to the Listing Rules to tighten restrictions on backdoor listings and continuing listing criteria. The changes are aimed at combatting listed company shell activities which have been the subject of ongoing regulatory scrutiny in recent years. Continue reading
The SFC has recently published its Statement on the conduct and duties of directors when considering corporate acquisitions or disposals.
- outlines the recurring types of misconduct relating to corporate acquisitions and disposals which the SFC observed over the past two or so years, since it adopted a front-loaded regulatory approach;
- reminds listed company directors and their advisers to comply with their statutory and other legal duties when evaluating or approving such corporate transactions; and
- warns listed company directors and their advisers that where the SFC has serious concerns that an announced acquisition or disposal may be structured or conducted in a manner that constitutes a breach under the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO) or other applicable laws, it will have no hesitation in using its powers under the SFO and the Securities and Futures (Stock Market Listing) Rules (SMLR) to protect market integrity and the investing public.
Front-loaded regulatory approach in action since 2017
Over the last two or so years, the SFC has been using its powers under the SMLR and the SFO to intervene at an early stage in serious cases of corporate misconduct, as part of its “front-loaded” or “real time” regulatory approach.
As the name suggests, the approach involves “nipping problems in the bud” through early targeted intervention (such as making inquiries or directing the stock exchange to suspend trading in the listed company’s shares) to minimise damage to the market. It also involves being more direct, upfront and transparent about how it regulates as a gatekeeper (such as issuing statements, guidelines and bulletins) to prompt fast behavioural changes. This is in addition to the enforcement work which the SFC will continue to conduct at the back end.
The SFC has issued a series of bulletins – SFC Regulatory Bulletin: Listed Corporations – to provide guidance on the manner in which it performs its functions under the SMLR and the SFO. The series can be accessed here and contains numerous case examples.
Recurring types of misconduct relating to corporate acquisitions and disposals
In the present statement, the SFC focuses on the recurring types of misconduct relating to acquisition and disposal transactions. The SFC notes that more than 55% of the cases in which it issued letters of concern in 2017 and 2018 involved corporate acquisitions and disposals.
Some of the recurring types of misconduct highlighted by the SFC include:
- lack of independent professional valuation for a planned acquisition or disposal;
- lack of independent judgment in considering valuation reports by external valuers and profit forecasts from vendors;
- performing little or no independent due diligence on the forecasts, assumptions, or business plans provided by the vendors or the management of the targets;
- cherry picking companies rather than using a representative sample of comparable companies for the purpose of valuation;
- failing to assess the potential negative impact of a planned acquisition on the resources and financial position of the listed issuer;
- no verification of the vendor’s ability to pay compensation or other safeguards to protect the listed issuer’s interests, where the issuer has paid consideration upfront based on the vendor’s profit forecast and the projected profits are not met;
- suspicious transactions that suggest undisclosed relationships or arrangements among purported independent third parties.
Last week, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) and the Ministry of Finance of the People’s Republic of China (MOF) regarding audit working papers in the Mainland arising from the audits of Hong Kong-listed Mainland companies.
Welcome to the Spring 2019 edition of our corporate crime update – our round up of developments in relation to corruption, money laundering, fraud, sanctions and related matters. Our update now covers a number of jurisdictions.