ASIC to monitor analysts briefings

ASIC to monitor analysts briefings

The corporate watchdog will monitor analysts' briefings through spot checks during the upcoming reporting season.

The corporate watchdog will monitor briefings between analysts and company officials in the wake of the Newcrest Mining disclosure scandal.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) plans to conduct spot checks with selected companies during August, when financial results are released to the market.

The watchdog wants to hear how companies brief analysts, and understand their procedures.

"We anticipate that companies and securities houses will be pleased to assist us," ASIC said in a statement on Monday.

But the regulator has not revealed whether it will use covert powers to intercept telephone conversations.

It comes after ASIC launched an investigation into Newcrest Mining's disclosure of a $6 billion writedown, and why the company's shares plunged in the days leading up to its June 7 announcement.

Several analysts downgraded their outlook for the company in the days leading up to the writedown announcement.

Analysts say ASIC's action is unlikely to claim any corporate scalps, but rather serve as a warning for companies to make sure their disclosure processes are in order.

ASIC Commissioner Cathie Armour said the regulator's priority was to allow large and small investors to have access to information equally.

But she did not provide details on how the watchdog would monitor briefings, or its plans to dedicate resources to monitoring voluminous and complex reports.

"This is a reminder to some who might be pushing the envelope on disclosure that it's time to make sure their processes are in order," CMC Markets chief analyst Michael McCarthy said.

"Barring a full scale covert operation of a company, it seems unlikely that sort of action is going to catch anyone making a selective disclosure."

University of Melbourne professor of commercial law Ian Ramsay said ASIC did not have a strong track record of enforcing regulations.

"It does create incentives, arguably for some companies and some of their advisers, to play a bit fast and loose with the rules, that's why enforcement is of such critical importance," Mr Ramsay told ABC radio.

Failing to make timely disclosure carries penalties of up to $1 million, with directors punishable with fines of up to $200,000.

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