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Angel Sze FCIS FCS, Company Secretary, Fosun International Ltd, offers some practical advice on how company/board secretaries can handle the complex issues involved in risk management and cross-border compliance.

Risk management

Managing the timely communication of key information is of great importance to the work of company/board secretaries. This section discusses risk management from four aspects: effective communication of information, handling of inside information, continued enhancement of compliance awareness among employees and making good use of digital management.

1. Effective communication of information

If you do not want to be busy firefighting or learning about the company’s incidents only through the mass media, you cannot overlook the importance of having proper mechanisms in place to communicate information on key or potential crises. Apart from ensuring the effectiveness of communication mechanisms, it is also important to have a Crisis Management Committee that can classify issues according to their risk levels and tackle them as soon as they come up, instead of leaving them unattended until they have reached a higher risk level or have evolved into a stage that is difficult to control. If the news has been widely reported in the media and has resulted in enquiries from the regulators, the company should prepare itself in advance and get a full picture of the events. In the process, the company should thoroughly assess whether and, if so, when the information should be communicated to stakeholders, including shareholders. Where necessary, announcements or statements should be made as soon as practicable.

When analysing potential deals, a full assessment should be made from different perspectives, including the structure of the project, the scale of the transaction, sensitivity, whether a non-competition undertaking is involved, and whether the target of the deal and the counterparty are related parties, listed companies or in regulated industries. If the target and the counterparty are listed in different jurisdictions, close liaison should be maintained regarding compliance with disclosure requirements of various stock exchanges and the timing of disclosure. A mechanism should also be in place to assess whether the transactions of a subsidiary would trigger a disclosure obligation by the parent company and, in particular, whether inside information of a subsidiary would constitute inside information of the parent company. The communication and assessment of relevant information should be swift and timely, and the company should be prepared to issue a joint announcement any time.

2. Inside information versus corporate actions

Where there is inside information, in addition to meeting disclosure obligations, the company should also assess other corporate actions that are in progress at the same time, such as share repurchases and granting of option/share incentive schemes. The operation of different corporate actions might have implications for one another. For example, plans to issue new shares cannot be announced if there is inside information or within 30 days after a share repurchase. When scheduling a share repurchase, one should not assume that the share repurchase can proceed at any time when the period of prohibition of dealing is over and when the company no longer possesses any inside information. This is because the proposed repurchase may affect other corporate actions of the company. Therefore when a company is in possession of inside information, extra caution should be taken to assess all implications.

3. Continued enhancement of compliance awareness

Compliance cannot be achieved by the company/board secretary department alone. A company should make it clear that everyone within the organisation should be fully aware of the importance of risk control. While it is necessary to provide compliance training to all staff regularly, reminders on compliance in respect of specific risk issues can be given to a smaller and more targeted audience. Frequent reminders on various occasions, including new staff orientation, lunchtime sharing sessions, regular compliance newsletters and compliance FAQs, briefings on compliance issues at morning assembly and quizzes on risk control knowledge, could help raise compliance awareness among staff. In addition to keeping abreast of the latest regulatory requirements and information, regular knowledge-sharing sessions within the department can cover the latest business developments of the company, new terminology in the market and the industries, and innovative means to handle daily issues. These sessions can promote a continuous learning environment and, more importantly, the continuity of professional knowledge and procedures about compliance work.

4. Promotion of digital management

Technological innovation often drives business development. Digitalisation is also important to the work of the company/board secretaries. They should attach importance to electronic and digitalised designs and settings. Open and frequently used information is made available through an internal open system for access by the investment teams and relevant staff. On the other hand, confidential information is stored and maintained in an internal database. Examples of digital management include the collection and updating of particulars on directors of special purpose vehicles, maintenance of lists of group companies, electronic approval of staff dealings in the company’s securities, sharing of compliance information, etc. Digital platforms can not only reduce the risks of omissions in information processing and enhance the accuracy of information, but also increase efficiency and ensure timeliness.

Cross-border compliance

1. Differences in regulatory approach

Different jurisdictions have different regulatory requirements. Often we may come across requirements that are similar or totally new. The flexibility of regulators also varies across different jurisdictions. Active communication with relevant regulators and asking questions, such as whether certain documentary requirements can be met by alternative means, can often expedite compliance work. For example, can some information requirements be satisfied by a statement signed by the company/board secretary? Or can certain certifications from relevant authorities be replaced by legal opinion issued by a lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction? By learning from the successful experience in other jurisdictions and exercising appropriate flexibility, the company can smoothly take forward its projects despite cumbersome approval procedures, avoiding delays while ensuring compliance.

2. Effective cooperation with service providers

When communicating with overseas service providers, we should be aware of local rules and regulations as well as cultural differences. In recent years, new laws on labour protection have been introduced in Europe, prohibiting even the taking of instructions after work. So we may not be able to accomplish urgent tasks simply by paying urgent charge or overtime charge. In setting up new companies or bank accounts overseas, it is necessary to know about the public holidays in these jurisdictions and plan ahead to allow sufficient time for the service providers to handle the instructions.

3. The importance of complete records

Designated staff should be assigned to keep a complete and detailed written record of all information throughout a transaction. After the completion of large-scale transactions like open offers and privatisations, the transaction parties may receive written enquires from regulators. The details at various stages of the transactions, including the date, time and place where negotiations were held and transactions were confirmed, the parties and service providers involved and other related information, should be properly recorded as basis for response to future enquiries.

Conclusion

Company/board secretaries play a crucial role in both corporate disclosure and compliance, but their departments should not be accustomed to just saying no – constructive advice should be suggested at the same time. While strictly adhering to relevant rules and regulations, company/board secretaries need to recognise the importance of the commercial interests and needs of the company, and properly play a role in supporting various internal departments. The company/board secretary department should maintain good corporate governance and give sufficient reminders on compliance risks, and at the same time offer the best professional support and solutions.

Angel Sze FCIS FCS, Company Secretary
Fosun International Ltd

 

风险管控与跨境合规 – 给公司秘书/董事会秘书的实用建议

复星国际有限公司公司秘书史美明FCIS FCS为公司秘书/董事会秘书提供实用建议,以处理风险管理及跨境合规所涉的复杂事务。

风险管控

从公司秘书/菫事會秘書(董秘)工作角度,管控重要信息的及时传递至关重要。本文就信息的有效传送、内幕信息的处理、持续提高员工合规意识和充分利用信息化管理四方面,介绍风险管控。

1. 信息的有效传递

如果不想当救火队和不想看见公司突发的消息是透过公众媒体才得知,重大及潜在危机信息通报机制绝不可轻视。在确保通报机制的有效性的同时,危机管理委员会可把突发事件分成不同潜在危机级别,从发生源头抓起持续跟进,而不是等待事件已经演变成更高层次和更难控制阶段才介入。如遇媒体较广泛报道而被监管问询时,公司可以提前做好充分准备,掌握好事件发生的来龙去脉,并能在过程中充分评估要否和何时需要把信息传递给股东等利益相关方,并以最短时间于有需要时作出相关公告或说明。

在处理潜在交易分析的工作时,需要以多维度从项目结构、交易规模、敏感性、业务竞争、标的和交易对方是否为关联方,为上市公司或属于受监管行业等方面全面评估。遇到标的和交易对方各在不同地区上市时,更需要紧密协调好多个交易所的披露规则和公告发布窗口时间。子公司的交易,会否同时触发母公司披露的评估机制,也需要有效落实。尤其子公司的内幕信息,会否也构成母公司的内幕信息,相关信息的传递和评估需要迅速敏捷,并随时做好联合公告的准备。

2. 内幕信息之前瞻后顾

除了考虑内幕信息的公告义务外,持有公司内幕信息时,需要多方位考虑公司其他同时进行的企业活动,如股份回购和授予期权或股份奖励等。多个企业活动之间的操作会相互影响,如持有内幕信息或股份回购后30天内均不可以宣布计划增发股份。于协调股份回购窗口时,不要轻易认为禁止买卖期已经结束且没有持有内幕信息,便可以随便交易,因为相关回购可能会影响公司正在进行的其他企业活动。所以,持有内幕信息时,不单要前瞻后顾,还需要左顾右盼!

3. 合规意识之点滴累积

合规并不是单靠公司秘书/董秘部门能单独完成的,企业应该宣导“人人都是风控责任人”的要求。定期面对全体员工的合规培训固然必要,但就特定风险事宜的合规提示可以在更小且更具针对性的范围提供。入职时的新员工培训、不时午餐培训分享会、定期整理发布的合规通讯和合规锦囊、晨课宣讲合规事宜和组织风控知识挑战赛等,可以在多角度多频次基础上,持续提升员工的合规意识。部门内部定期的知识“小科普”,除了提示最新监管要求和信息外,也可以科普公司最新业务情况、市场和行业的新词汇、汇总日常问题的创新处理方法和倡导持续学习的氛围,更重要的是做好部门合规工作程序和专业知识的传承。

4. 智能中台管理推动

业务需要科技创新驱动,数字化对公司秘书/董秘工作也十分重要。其应重视电子化、数字化的布局和顶层设计。一方面,可公开的常用信息通过内部系统开放,方便投资团队及相关人员查阅;另一方面,需保密的信息通过内部数据库能够安全存放、维护及传承。如通过电子化信息管理来收集和更新SPV公司董事、维护集团公司清单,电子化审批员工买卖公司证券的申请,合规信息共享等,数字化平台不但降低了信息处理遗漏的风险及提高信息提供的准确性,也提高了工作效率和确保及时性。

跨境合规之实践

1. 多地规则的对比思维

面对不同地区的监管要求,不时会遇到类似或从未接触过的新要求。即使各个地区监管要求弹性不一,就个别文件提供的要求能否以其他方式替代,主动与相关监管沟通和多提问题,往往可以加快处理速度。如某些信息的提供,能否以公司秘书身份签署相关说明文件代替?又或者要求相关机构发出的若干证明,可否让相关地区的律师以法律意见函的形式取代等。吸取其他地区成功接受的经验和适当的灵活变通,可以助力公司于繁琐的审批程序中顺利推进项目进程,避免时间耽误的同时做好合规工作。

2. 中介服务商的有效合作

与境外中介服务商沟通,除了了解当地法规,也需要了解文化的差异。欧洲近年推出保护劳工的新法,连下班后收取工作指令都不容许,所以就紧急项目的处理,不是简单支付加急/加班费用便能完成。如涉及于境外开立当地新公司或银行账户时,需要充分了解相关地区的公众假期情况,预留足够时间给予中介服务商处理工作。

3. 记录完整的重要性

有关交易全过程中的信息,需要安排专人做好完整详实的书面记录。就要约收购、私有化等的大型交易,各地监管可能在交易结束后作出书面问询。于交易各阶段,包括涉及谈判及落实交易的各个日期、时间、地点、人物、中介服务商及其他相关具体信息均需要做好详细记录,以备做好相关回复的依据。

总结

公司秘书/董秘在企业内部持有不同的钥匙,把信息承上接下,并开启合规之门。公司秘书/董秘不应该是只懂得说“不”的部门,而应提出建设性的建议。在严格遵守相关法则下兼顾和高度重视企业商业利益和需求,并在公司内部发挥好智能中台服务的作用。在做好企业管治和充分提示合规风险之余,同时提供最佳的专业支持和问题解决方案。

复星国际有限公司
公司秘书史美明 FCIS FCS

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