Three Regional Board Secretary Panel meetings organised by the HKICS earlier this year in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing reviewed Hong Kong’s new statutory price-sensitive information (PSI) disclosure requirements and compared the PSI disclosure regimes of mainland China and Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS) organised three Regional Board Secretary Panel meetings on 17 and 20 February and April 13 in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing respectively. At the meetings, Dr Maurice Ngai, HKICS Vice-President, explained the requirements for the disclosure of price-sensitive information (PSI) by listed corporations under the Securities and Futures (Amendment) Bill 2011 which will become effective on 1 January 2013. Attendees, including board secretaries, representatives of mainland regulators and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) and the HKICS, discussed the types of PSI to be disclosed, the necessary preparatory work to meet the new requirements and the differences between the PSI disclosure regimes of mainland China and Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong approach
‘The purpose of the Amendment Bill is to nurture a culture of continuous disclosure among listed corporations, enhance market transparency and quality, and to follow the requirements of international capital markets,’ Dr Maurice Ngai said. He began his presentation by covering the background to the Securities and Futures (Amendment) Bill 2011 (the Amendment Bill) and outlining its key elements. The Amendment Bill obliges listed corporations to make timely disclosure of PSI. Corporations in breach of the requirements will be subject to civil sanction. Administrative procedures will be simplified by enabling the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to institute proceedings before the Market Misconduct Tribunal, and the opportunity will be taken to enable the SFC to establish a cross-sectoral Investor Education Council. Certain technical amendments will also be made to the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO).
The board secretaries at the meetings were concerned about the definition of PSI in the Amendment Bill. The Bill proposes that the concept of ‘relevant information’ currently used in the ‘insider dealing’ regime in the SFO be borrowed to define PSI, and such information would be renamed ‘inside information’. ‘Inside information’ is information currently prohibited from being used for trading securities in the relevant listed corporation. Apart from the prohibition from being used for insider dealing, such information must be disclosed to the public in a timely manner. The Amendment Bill stresses that listed corporations should, as soon as reasonably practicable, disclose inside information that has come to its knowledge. An officer involved in the management of the corporation should take all reasonable measures to ensure that proper safeguards exist to prevent breaches. The Amendment Bill also contains provisions on the responsibility of officers of listed corporations for nondisclosure. The meeting was also briefed on the applicability of the ‘safe harbours’, the civil sanctions for breaches of the disclosure requirements and the remedies available to investors.
At the meetings, a comparison was made between the continuous disclosure obligations under the Amendment Bill and those described in the listing rules of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEx). The board secretaries present, together with mainland regulator representatives, HKEx and HKICS, also discussed issues relating to the implementation of the Amendment Bill requirements; the differences in disclosure requirements between mainland China and Hong Kong and the need for harmonisation of these requirements; the role of board secretaries in managing PSI and preventing insider dealing; and the role of the board secretary in the governance of listed corporations.
The mainland approach
During the discussion, a representative of the Shanghai Branch of the China Securities Regulatory Commission said that, from a policy perspective, the Amendment Bill introduced into the Hong Kong Legislative Council was inspiring. Information disclosure requirements are not as clearly defined in mainland Chinese law, and this results in different approaches to regulating insider dealing in mainland China and Hong Kong. The basic concept of insider dealing as ‘a person’s failure to disclose information that should be disclosed, thereby adversely affecting the market’ is generally accepted in Hong Kong and mainland China, but there are some aspects of the Amendment Bill which are potentially problematic. Under the Bill, for example, could a company secretary be liable for his corporation’s failure to make disclosure of discloseable information even where that information may not have come to the notice of the company secretary? This would be a very significant departure from the common understanding in the industry of inside information. Dr Ngai also pointed out that, from an operational perspective, there is a high degree of uncertainty as to what constitutes inside information – does this include information considered ‘trade secrets’ by listed corporations, for example?
Dr Ngai said that the market will need time to adapt to the statutory PSI disclosure regulatory regime. Listed corporations will need to familiarise themselves with the new requirements and adapt their internal controls to ensure compliance. The SFC will promulgate guidelines on the Amendment Bill and will provide an informal consultation service for 24 months after the implementation of the PSI disclosure requirements in January 2013 to facilitate listed corporations’ compliance. During implementation, the SFC has the power to amend the regulations and introduce more safe harbours, taking into account the market situation. For example, consideration will be given to the implications of the ‘trade secrets’ of corporations, and the issue of different standards of disclosure for large corporations and small companies.
At the Regional Board Secretary Panel meetings, Lan Qi, Board Secretary of the China Merchants Bank and Guo Xiangdong, Board Secretary of Guangshen Railway Company Ltd, also pointed out that companies concurrently listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen were subject to different regulatory and disclosure requirements. How to align the regulatory and disclosure regimes of the two places is an issue that warrants early consideration by regulators and listed companies in China. They should proactively learn from the successful experience of the regulators in Hong Kong.
Kenneth Jiang, Chief Representative of the Beijing Representative Office of the HKICS, said that HKICS has conducted a study to compare the information disclosure regimes in the mainland and Hong Kong and provided the results of the study to HKEx, Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The HKICS will continue to work with all parties on the issue of information disclosure.
Cai Zongqi, Journalist
The revised Securities and Futures Ordinance will become effective on 1 January 2013. The HKICS set up four Regional Board Secretary Panels in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in 2010. For a review of the Regional Board Secretary Panel meeting held on 12 January in Hong Kong, see CSj, April edition, pages 18–24).
公會今年較早時在上海、深圳和北京舉行三場董事會秘書 圓桌會議，討論香港就股價敏感資料的披露要求而推出的 新法例，並比較內地和香港的股價敏感資料披露制度。
今年2月17日、20日和4月13日，香 港特許秘書公會分別在上海、深圳 和北京三地舉行董事會秘書圓桌會議。 香港特許秘書公會副會長魏偉峰博士 就《2011年證券及期貨（修訂）條例草 案》對上市公司披露股價敏感資料進行 了解讀，與出席會議的逾50名參會董秘 進行了細緻探討，並對披露股價敏感資 料的類型及新條例要求下需步署的工作 交換了意見。
「修訂草案出台的目的在於培育上市公 司持續披露信息的氛圍，提升市場透 明度和素質，並跟隨其他國際資本市 場要求。」魏偉峰博士首先介紹了香 港《2011年證券及期貨（修訂）條例草 案》（以下簡稱《修訂草案》）出台的 背景情況和主要內容。他表示，草案首 先規定了上市公司有適時披露股價敏感 資料的責任，如違反有關規定，則應受 到相應的民事制裁。《修訂草案》簡化 行政程式，授權香港證監會可直接在市 場失當行為審裁處啟動調查程式，並以 此為契機，授權香港證監會成立跨部門 的投資者教育局；最後，對《證券及期 貨條例》進行若干技術性修訂。
與會董秘對於《修訂草案》中涉及的 “股價敏感資料”的界定問題頗為關 注，進行了深入討論。《修訂草案》建 議採用現有《證券及期貨條例》禁止內 幕交易制度中“有關消息”的概念來界 定股價敏感資料，並被稱為“內幕消 息”。“內幕消息”等同于現時被禁止 用作交易有關上市公司的證券的資料， 除禁止利用其進行內幕交易外，還需適 時向公眾披露。《修訂草案》強調，上 市公司須在合理且切實可行範圍內，盡 快向公眾披露任何已知道的“內幕消 息”。而且，參與管理的“高級人員” 須採取一切合理措施，以確保有妥善的 預防措施，防止有關公司違反披露要 求。《修訂草案》中也對上市公司高級 人員未按要求進行披露的責任認定進行 了規定。會議還簡要介紹了公司信息“安全港”所適用的範圍，違反披露要 求所應承擔的相應民事責任，以及對投 資人的相關補救措施。 會上還將《修訂草案》與港交所《上市 規則》中對持續披露責任的表述進行了 對比研究，出席會議的董秘與監管機構 代表、交易所代表及協會代表就《修訂 草案》相關修改意見的具體操作、兩地 披露的差異及協調、董秘如何有效管控 股價敏感信息和防止內幕交易、如何在 上市公司治理中發揮作用等問題進行了 討論。
討論中，上海證監局代表指出，從目前 的政策角度出發，香港財經事務及庫務 局出台《修訂草案》這樣的法律值得思 考。由於內地有關信息披露責任的法律 界定尚不明確，香港和內地對內幕交易 的監管的概念並不一致。而將內幕交易 理解為“由於當事人未披露應予以披 露的信息而造成對市場不利影響的行 為”，這個概念能夠為香港和內地業界 廣泛接受。但目前香港新出台的《修訂 草案》理解上仍有一定困難。該草案認 為，董秘所在公司有應予披露的信息但 實際上董秘不一定知悉，而董秘未進行 披露將要被追究法律責任，這與目前業 界對內幕信息的共識性理解存在一定距 離，他亦表示，從實際操作來看，「有 不少信息，是否能夠被確定為內幕信 息？很多涉及到上市公司商業機密的， 界定有一定的難度。」
魏偉峰博士表示，披露制度是一個交易 市場必須考慮發展形成的機制，上市公 司和交易所都需要一個過程來熟悉新的 要求、適應並充分使用這個機制。香港 證監會亦就新修訂的草案提供配套指 引，並就如何應用新的披露要求提供為 期24個月的非正式諮詢服務，以便上市 公司更好的適應並遵守新的披露敏感信 息的要求。同時，在制定這個制度的實 施過程中，證監會亦根據市場情況有權 作出附例的修訂及加入更多安全港，例如要考慮到商業秘密對公司的影響，大 企業和小企業披露信息的不同尺度而造 成的標準問題。
與會的招商銀行董秘蘭奇及廣深鐵路股 份有限公司董秘郭向東提出，上市公司 在上海和深圳兩地上市，所面臨的監管 和披露要求是不同的，如何平等、規範 兩地的監管和披露機制，是目前大陸監 管機構和上市公司應及早思考的問題。 有關問題，香港的監管機構有一些成功 的經驗，應當積極進行交流和借鑒。 對於上述熱點，香港特許秘書公會北京代 表處首席代表姜國梁表示，公會已經就香 港和中國上市公司之持續披露課題進行了 對比研究，公會也將研究結果及大家討論 中提到的兩地法規要求及實際監管中存在 的差異或不協調的問題回饋給了港交所、 上交所和深交所，公會將會在信息披露方 面繼續與大家一道合作。
2010年，公會在北京、上海、廣州和 深圳成立四個董事會秘書專責小組。 最近一次深圳董事會秘書專責小組會 議，於1月12日在香港舉行，當中也 討論了披露股價敏感資料的課題。本 刊4月號報道了該次會議的情況（見4 月號第18至24頁）。