THE rate of pay disclosure of the top executives of listed companies has stalled, even as the deadline to comply with stricter disclosure rules approaches.
Pay consultant Freshwater Advisers, in a review of listed companies' rate of pay disclosure, found that 28 per cent of companies are still not in line, similar to last year.
The review looked at 295 companies with at least $100 million in market capitalisation.
Among companies already in line, there is some improvement in the quality of disclosure, said Jon Robinson, Freshwater Advisers managing director, in a recent interview.
But what irks him is the inconsistency with which the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is getting the recalcitrants to fall in line.
The majority of companies publishing their annual reports next year must comply with The Code of Corporate Governance 2012. On pay matters, they will have to disclose the actual pay of their directors and the names and remuneration packages of their top five executives.
The current Code allows pay to be disclosed in bands.
Freshwater Advisers' review, which included only listed companies with a Dec 31 year-end, found that 17 per cent of the companies disclosed their top executives' exact pay this year, up from 11 per cent last year.
Of those which reported the information in bands of $250,000, 55 per cent did so this year, against 61 per cent last year.
Nearly half the companies did not report key executives' pay.
Mr Robinson said that the problem was that the Code of Corporate Governance is non-mandatory, and that companies can wriggle out by explaining their lack of disclosure.
By way of showing SGX's uneven handling of this, the review also looked at 40 companies which did not follow the code, only 12 were queried by the SGX; the other 28 were not questioned.
And of the 12, seven disclosed the information in their responses to the SGX, while the other five offered "boilerplate" responses, citing "competitive reasons" for their non-transparency.
"SGX accepted the responses," said Mr Robinson.
"The clear indication is that SGX is inconsistent in its review of remuneration disclosures in annual reports and accepting evasive responses.
"This is contrary to what the MAS (the Monetary Authority of Singapore) indicated that it wished to see."
MAS managing director Ravi Menon last year said that disclosures by companies which deviated from the Code are often uninformative.
"Companies should provide meaningful explanations of their reasons for deviation, and not opt for 'template' disclosures that shed no light on these reasons, or worse, obfuscate the issue," he said.