Sunday 29 January 2017

True and Fair: A View From the Boardroom #1

When I ended my tenure as the Executive Chairman of the Audit Oversight Board and Executive Director of the Securities Commission last year, one of my ambitions was to write a book. I wanted to share my experiences in the areas of financial reporting and corporate disclosures, two important areas which contribute to the smooth functioning of our capital market. This idea remains an idea until today.

Hence, I have decided to take a different approach. Many of my Facebook friends write regularly on the topics of their choices with the intention to publish books based on these regular postings. Why not? If I post regular enough on the subjects here, I would have enough to publish as well.

I would be sharing my views and ideas on corporate reporting and disclosure from today onwards, a sort of a new initiative for 2017. This adds to another project of mine on Wattopers, my batchmates from MARA Junior Science College, Kota Bharu, where we would be celebrating our 40th anniversary of friendship next year.

Tentatively, I have chosen True and Fair: A View From The Boardroom as the title. It is about the board taking responsibility over the quality of financial reporting and disclosure, a delicate subject to directors due to the ways boards work. They have to rely on management who run the daily business and have depth understandings of corporate issues. How would boards balance their responsibilities with the amount of time they spend in boardrooms? Are there ways and means to ensure the fulfilment of their obligations under various laws?

At the same time reporting, particularly financial reporting, is becoming more complex. As companies carry more financial assets and liabilities on their balance sheets, their existence and valuations are amongst key issues which require attention. Many of these assets and liabilities are premised on projected cashflows which are based on assumptions and models which pose risks on their own. What adds to the challenge is the convergence of regulatory requirements with these complex standards.

The expectation on auditors to perform their statutory functions have led to the establishment of oversight structures within and outside of corporations. From this year, audit reports of public listed companies would have to comply with the new standards which require auditors to share more light regarding their audits. Would some of the new standards unearth issues beyond financial reporting and audit issues?

As share prices reflect forward looking prospects of companies, investors need high quality information on a timely basis. This has exert pressure on listed companies to come out with relevant information which could affect their prospects on a more forthcoming basis. We had situations in the past where companies have to provide additional information after their initial announcements, suggesting that they did not disclose enough beforehand.

In addition to discussing financial reporting and disclosure issues, I hope the book would provide directors with insights and ideas on what they could consider to enhance their performance. 

This would be a long journey but unless I make the first step, it would remained just an intention.

I am making that first step today.

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