Senior US SEC bosses heading to London for June regulation summit

The chief of staff of ‘the world’s most powerful financial regulator’ is heading to London next month, in the wake of a wide-ranging consultation into reporting regimes for US-listed companies.

In an event that is likely to attract many of the UK investment world’s leading lights, Andrew Donohue, of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), will deliver the keynote address and take questions

The SEC Regulation Outside the United States event, will be held at Simmons & Simmons at CityPoint, London on 28th June. Donahue will be accompanied by senior officials from many SEC divisions, as well as the deputy director of the unit that is empowered to visit and inspect non-US brokers and investment managers.

High on the agenda is likely to be the SEC’s recently launched 341-page consultation paper that seeks input into possible changes to nearly every aspect of the way companies listed on American exchanges disclose information to the public.

“Reforms of this scale are a hugely ambitious project and it’s of course hard to know where this will go in an election year when there are so many forces at play,” said Washington-based lawyer Alexander Cohen, a partner at Latham & Watkins.

“If they were to make significant changes to disclosure rules it wouldn’t just affect companies operating in the US – it could have knock on effects in capital markets all over the world.”

Dan Goelzer, senior counsel from Baker & McKenzie, who like Cohen is a former SEC lawyer, dubbed the potential changes as a “once-in-a-generation effort to rethink the commission’s public company disclosure requirements, including everything from what is – and isn’t ­– important to investors, to how information should be formatted and presented”.

“The SEC is exploring such basic things as the future of quarterly reporting, whether to require a broad range of sustainability and social responsibility disclosures and whether disclosure requirements should be scaled to company size.”

The conference is expected to attract hundreds of compliance and finance directors of UK companies listed on US exchanges and investment managers in the City whose sphere of influence includes US investors.

The event represents an opportunity for international companies with US operations and investors to hear first hand about the consultation and to give their own feedback.

The SEC said that it has a series of other proposals under consideration at the moment, including restricting the use of derivatives within funds, applying swing pricing to support fund liquidity and forcing companies to tighten up cyber security to protect the sensitive data of investors.

It is also looking to set up a single, comprehensive database to allow regulators to track all trading activity in the US equity and options markets to help identify and investigate misconduct.

Mark Berman, chief executive of US compliance specialist CompliGlobe and another SEC veteran, is chairing the discussions.

He said: “As the latest consultation document shows, the regulatory environment is changing all the time. It’s remarkable that the SEC is turning out in such force for this event. This is a rare opportunity to ask questions directly and to hear what the SEC’s priorities are currently. It’s likely to attract huge interest.

“The SEC has wide-ranging powers to inspect SEC regulated firms in Europe and frequently does so. As such, firms must always be in full compliance to ensure that if they are examined it won’t be necessary for the SEC to take an enforcement action.”

Also attending will be Barbara Jacobs, assistant director at the division of corporation finance, known for her role in handling the Facebook IPO for the SEC.

Other SEC speakers include Jane Jarcho, deputy director, office of compliance inspections & examinations, who has overseen a 27% increase in inspections of US registered investment advisers and investment companies, Gary Goldsholle, deputy director, division of trading & markets, and Melissa Gainor, senior special counsel, division of investment management.

 

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Gary Robinson
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