Keith Williamson was quoted in an article by International Financial News (国际金融报) covering a recent large-scale fraud scandal in China and the implications for listed companies facing such allegations.
Keith Williamson, Managing Director and Head of Alvarez & Marsal’s Dispute Resolution and Investigation Services team in Asia, said that companies usually set up an independent special committee in order to ensure the independence of an investigation and to make sure the results are not interfered by people involved in relevant allegations, including the management and board members. Listed companies have no statutory obligation to investigate market allegations, and regulatory authorities will not require companies to conduct investigations solely based on the market allegations. Unless the listed company violates relevant regulations for disclosure, integrity, etc., then the regulator will require the enterprise to file relevant materials. Otherwise, the regulator generally maintains a close watch on the companies with limited direct intervention. In certain instances, the regulator might hold closed-door meetings with companies to find out whether the allegations check out and whether they have violated regulations. In light of market allegations, while listed companies can choose not to respond or investigate, they generally respond and clarify the facts because of pressured stock price and the expectation of investors and regulators, in order to protect the company’s reputation and the interests of stakeholders. In the US, investors can even file a class action lawsuit against companies and the management to recover the losses due to fraud or mismanagement. Companies may face fines, market suspensions and even be delisted, and the management may also face jail time. Looking back at the dot-com bubble and the financial crisis, there are numerous similar cases. (English translation of original Chinese version below) 安迈董事总经理兼亚洲区争议解决与调查服务负责人韦谦信（Keith Williamson）在接受《国际金融报》记者采访时则表示，企业会成立独立特别委员会，通常是为了确保调查的独立性，确保调查结果不受涉及有关指控的人士干预，包括企业管理层与董事会成员。 韦谦信表示，事实上，上市公司并没有法定义务针对指控进行调查，监管部门也不会单凭市场人士的指控而强制要求企业进行调查。除非上市公司违反了有关信息披露或诚信等规定，监管部门才会要求企业提交相关资料。否则，监管部门一般保持紧密监察而较少直接介入，或者在个别情况透过闭门协商与谈话，了解相关指控是否属实以及企业有否违反监管规定。 韦谦信在接受《国际金融报》记者采访时称，面临市场人士的指控，上市公司固然可以选择不进行回应或调查，但是面对股价受压的情况以及投资者与监管部门等利益相关者的期望，企业普遍会作出回应并澄清事实，务求维护企业声誉与各方利益。“就美国的情况而言，投资者甚至可以出于欺诈或管理失当等原因，向企业与管理人员提出集体诉讼以追讨损失。除了企业可能面临罚款、停市甚至摘牌退市外，管理人员也可能锒铛入狱。” 根据韦谦信的表述，回望互联网泡沫与金融风暴时期，同类事件不胜枚举，例如美国能源类公司安然（Enron）就发生过管理人员存在不当行为的情况，涉及金额相当可观。