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NZX not alone in driving off listings

  • July 28th, 2010

Under the headline 'German Giants Flee Wall Street' Der Spiegel notes another stage in the decline of the NYSE as the world's dominant exchange.

" … With expensive accounting rules, an increased threat of litigation and hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for some firms, the once prestigious New York Stock Exchange and other American markets have become unattractive to Germany's biggest companies. Daimler and Deutsche Telekom have fled this year and the few remaining are likely to follow. On June 18, the symbol of the German company Deutsche Telekom, DT, made its last run across the ticker at the New York Stock Exchange. Europe's largest telecom company left the world's biggest and most recognizable exchange after nearly 14 years of trading. The company is currently in the process of delisting from all foreign exchanges and will soon only be traded on its home stock market in Frankfurt. Deutsche Telekom is just the latest German blue chip to say goodbye to the American capital market. In an emblematic departure, Daimler, the first German firm to be listed in New York in 1993, officially quit trading on the NYSE on June 4, saying that it no longer needed a presence in New York to attract international investors. And Munich-based insurance and financial services giant Allianz abandoned the NYSE last fall."

I hope the MED officials working on our Securities Law Reform package see it. Because this article is not about the effect of the latest package of politico-regulatory responses to the GFC, now expected to add between 300 and 700 new regulations for capital markets to deal with. The current exodus is reported to be a response to existing regulatory costs (largely for disclosure  including Sarbanes Oxley)

"On average, companies must add another five to 10 people to their payroll for SEC compliance alone, and a company may need a dozen workers for required executive compensation disclosures,..".

and the risks of personal litigation liability  

"What the SEC fully doesn't grasp to today is that dealing with the US regulation system is a nightmare,…it's another reason to run to the exit door.

Sarbanes-Oxley reforms also require a company executive to approve on all financial reports. "The most important thing (about Sarbanes-Oxley) is that the CEO and CFO sign for the financial statements,….All it takes is one person in the company to make a mistake and (an executive) can go to jail. Executives who sign off on incorrect financial statements can face a sentence of up to 20 years."

Our new law must target crooks, people with criminal mens rea (guilty minds). It must not treat foolishness and over-optimism and carelessness as if they are similar species of wickedness. Because law that conflates them all will scare honest people into doing nothing, or spending time on fruitless compliance back-covering. They know that good faith business mistakes are inevitable if they are to take the kinds of risks on behalf of shareholders that have allowed people living off the work of our businesses to come to think that poverty is not normal. 

Politicians are now being pushed by voters who think that big losses should not be as normal as big profits, or that if they suffer them, taxpayers should take them over, or make rules to ensure they can never suffer them again.

The NYSE is suffering the consequences of such failure to distinguish wickedness from foolishness.


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