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Europe poised to tighten accounting rules

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BOB MOON: In the wake of the big corporate scandals in recent years, we’ve heard lots of complaints about the new Sarbanes-Oxley rules making business so much more difficult. So much so that some have warned businesses are more inclined to list on European exchanges. Now it seems Europe is about to crack down too. Marketplace’s Stephen Beard joins us from London with more on this. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Good morning Bob.

MOON: So just when a lot of companies thought it was easier to do business in Europe, these new audit rules are being proposed. Tell us what they might entail.

BEARD: Well the Daily Telegraph in London has drawn our attention to some small print buried in something called the Eighth Company Law Directive on Statutory Audit, and this contains a body of rules regulating the use of auditors by overseas companies which list on European exchanges. Critics say they are far too onerous and expensive to administer, and they will have very much the same effect that Sarbanes-Oxley has had on New York: It will drive foreign companies away from listing in Europe.

MOON: As onerous as some of the Sarbanes-Oxley provisions that have drawn so much criticism, for example, you have executives having to sign off on their financial statements, that sort of thing?

BEARD: Yes. We dona€™t have all the details yet but it does seem to equal if not exceed Sarbanes-Oxley in some of the burdens that it places on foreign companies wanting to list in Europe.

MOON: Well leta€™s talk about the possible effects on exchanges here in this country. Any talk about that?

BEARD: Well very simply, this could be one in the eye for London and one up for New York. It might actually stop the hemorrhage of foreign listings away from New York to London and put them into reverse. So Londona€™s loss could be New Yorka€™s gain.

MOON: OK thank you very much, Stephen Beard in London.


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