Taiwan adds social responsibility disclosure to listing rules

The FSC is making disclosure on social responsibility compulsory for Taiwan-listed firms so that investors can better understand the processes and progress that companies are making towards sustainability.
In its latest bid to become the asset management centre in the region, TaiwanÆs Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) is amending disclosure requirements in its listing rules to make Taiwan more investor-friendly.

Among the changes, and the move that is attracting most attention, is making disclosures on corporate social responsibility compulsory for Taiwan-listed firms.

The rules will allow investors to understand the processes and progress companies have in place for carrying out their corporate social responsibilities. Potentially, that should appeal to investors attracted to socially responsible investments, especially as total assets from signatories committed to the United NationÆs Principles for Responsible Investment already amount to $15 trillion worldwide. (On the other side of the coin, punters supporting so-called æsin stocksÆ can also assess potential investments based on such indicators.)

The Taiwan regulator will be first among its peers around the world to put ink to paper on SRI-related rules. It has gone where no other regulator had gone before û most regulators have at best encouraged corporate social responsibility with variable enthusiasm. And as the global economy has come under pressure, a lot of SRI initiatives have been put on the back-burner.

Concurrent to the adding of the SRI rule, the FSC is also taking the market slowdown as an opportunity to catch up with housekeeping. Where company board members have failed in their function as counter-balancers and protectors of investor interests in recent years, the FSC is looking to strengthen the governance function of directors and enhance accountability of management and external auditors.

It is adding requirements for information disclosure on attendance rates at board meetings, a directorÆs communication record with internal compliance and accountants, the level of director fees, and the possibility that if a company has made a loss for two years in a row that the directorsÆ names and individual packages are released to the public. The FSC says the public should also know about directors who have been holding an insufficient stake in their company (as required in Taiwan to be a representative on the board) for over three months.

Pension benefits given to directors, board supervisors, general managers and deputy general managers will now be in full view of the public too. The move follows accepted models in the US and Hong Kong. It is a move badly needed in Taiwan as it aims to become a global financial hub. But in a corporate sector dominated by family businesses, the rule is not expected to be taken kindly by owner-managers.

The FSC also believes investors and stakeholders should have information available on their auditorsÆ credibility. The FSC is requiring companies to disclose if they plan to use a different auditor from the previous financial year, and to alert investors if there is a change in the auditorÆs fees.

The FSC says the changes have already passed the public consultation phase. The rules will be ready for implementation once they complete the passage through the executive channels.
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