Amid the spate of penny stock price collapses last month, investor lobby group Securities Investors Association Singapore (SIAS) has asked the regulators to give more teeth to listing rules here by imposing heavy fines on individuals who flout them.
If corporate miscreants understand that there is greater likelihood of being found out, and that the cost of such breaches is high, perhaps they would think twice about dabbling in the market, SIAS president and CEO David Gerald said at an awards presentation ceremony last night. "Companies listing in Singapore must not take the view that if they breach listing rules, they can go scot free," he said.
Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp triggered a penny-stock meltdown with an inexplicable crash, prompting the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to impose trading restrictions on them. This set off a wave of selling in other penny counters such as Sky One and Tritech Group.
SIAS has reviewed Asiasons, Blumont and LionGold with technology company Handshakes, and discovered a recent instance when a share price run-up came before the announcement of a sizeable acquisition, Mr Gerald said. A listed company is required to seek shareholders' approval when a deal it plans to undertake is proportionately large for its size. In this instance, the preceding share-price run sufficiently affected the way certain ratios were calculated. Hence, such shareholders' approval was not required.
Mr Gerald said it's timely for the regulators to review instances where unusual price movements affect ratios that determine the need for shareholder approvals.
"We want to avoid situations where unusual price movements inadvertently deprive shareholders of a say in significant matters," he said.
Listed companies should also be required to state clearly whether they had been queried recently in disclosures when they announce acquisitions and disposals to shareholders, Mr Gerald added.
The SIAS Investors' Choice Awards held last night is an annual event to celebrate displays of excellence in areas of shareholder communication and corporate governance. Corporate winners this year include DBS Group, Yongnam Holdings, SingTel, Fraser and Neave, Sembcorp Marine, Cordlife Group, InnoTek and Ascendas Reit. CapitaLand scooped the Golden Circle Award - the highest accolade - for consistently practising good corporate governance, Mr Gerald said.
The awards are part of the fourth Corporate Governance Week organised by SIAS that's taking place next week.
Guest-of-honour Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, yesterday urged the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to consider requiring companies to adopt and disclose their diversity policy in their annual reports.
While the revised Singapore's Code of Corporate Governance, which requires corporate boards to provide for diversity - including that of gender diversity - is "a step in the right direction", Ms Fu said: "I believe we can do better."
In response to her comments, the MAS said it has already established a diversity task force to study how to encourage greater diversity, including gender diversity, in the boardroom and C-suite.
"The task force is currently conducting a survey on gender diversity on boards and in senior management, and is expected to produce a report with its recommendations some time in 2014.
"Along with other relevant agencies, MAS will study the recommendations and consider how best to implement them," it said.