With high-profile cases such as those of Galleon, Greenlight Capital and SAC Capital hitting the headlines in recent years, fund managers are increasingly worried about what might constitute inside information.
Such concern is clearly being felt by Hong Kong-listed companies, with the number of corporate announcements on inside information up 43% in the first three months of 2013 over Q1 last year.
This has presumably also been spurred by the city's new statutory regime on the disclosure of inside information. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) says the rules aim “to cultivate and encourage an enduring culture of disclosure by listed companies”. They require listed corporations to disclose inside information to the public in a timely manner.
The regulator has been working closely with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing in monitoring the compliance of listed companies under the new regime, including reviewing companies’ disclosures, raising pertinent issues with companies and giving guidance where disclosure appears to be inadequate or anomalies are detected.
The SFC started providing a consultation service to listed corporations from December 1 on the application of provisions of the statutory disclosure regime.
Most enquiries handled by the consultation service have been general in nature and they are generally processed within the same day, says the SFC. The questions covered a broad range of issues such as the interpretation of inside information, the application of safe harbours and confidentiality requirements, the liability provisions and other general administrative matters.
“We believe the new statutory regime on disclosure of inside information has certainly raised awareness among listed companies of the importance of making disclosures to the investing public in a timely manner,” says Ashley Alder, SFC chief executive.
“We will nevertheless continue to maintain rigorous monitoring of listed companies’ compliance with the regime, with a view to promoting enhanced disclosure, fostering a positive change in corporate culture and facilitating more timely regulatory actions on cases involving non-compliance.”
There has been a rise in the number of cases brought against those suspected of insider trading in the past year or two in Hong Kong, such as that involving New York-based hedge fund Tiger Asia.
Meanwhile, Japan has also proposed tighter rules following a major crackdown on insider trading last year. They introduced higher fees and criminal liability for those who either pass along insider information or benefit from it, and the names of individuals involved will be released.