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International, Global Issues

Below is some of the most recent Compliance Week coverage of various global regulatory developments. Coverage includes analysis of EU directives, GAAP-IFRS accounting convergence, IASB pronouncements, exchange convergence, and more. Also see our searchable database of global rules, standards and guidance, which includes not only U.S. regulatory bodies like the SEC and FASB, but documents from the International Accounting Standards Board and European Union: Internal Market, as well.

EU Could Ditch Safe Harbor for Data Exportation

October 23, 2013

The European Union's changing data protection laws could make life more difficult for companies that want to transfer information out of the 28-member trading bloc and into the United States. Early discussions over the final form of Europe's new data protection laws suggest the EU may scrap a safe harbor provision that currently allows U.S. companies to move data out of the EU. Details inside.

SFO to Consider Extending Company Liability Beyond Bribery

September 24, 2013

Britain's top corporate fraud prosecutor, the Serious Fraud Office, says it wants to take the idea of holding companies responsible for corporate crimes committed by employees, a concept established under the Bribery Act, and extend it to other types of activity. Compliance executives are pushing back on a plan they say is flawed. "It would be a bit like prosecuting homeowners for being burgled," says Geoff Cruikshanks, executive vice president of legal services, risk, and compliance at global logistics company DHL.

EU Data Privacy Laws Will Snag More U.S. Companies

July 16, 2013

European data privacy laws, already far more restrictive than those in the United States, are about to get stricter and will apply to more U.S. companies than they currently do. They could also take effect sooner than planned. After Edward Snowden's NSA revelations that the U.S. government is collecting data on European citizens, some EU lawmakers want to fast-track privacy regulation. "EU citizens must be guaranteed protection under our own EU laws," says Sophie in't Veld, an EU member of parliament from the Netherlands.

The End of U.K. GAAP

April 16, 2013

U.S. companies will have to start producing financials for all their British subsidiaries under a new financial reporting rulebook next year, as the United Kingdom phases out its version of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. While most public U.K. companies moved to International Financial Accounting Standards by 2005, private companies and subsidiaries have had the option to remain on U.K. GAAP. In 2015, that will no longer be an option. More details inside.

U.K. Provides New Guidance on Bribery Act Compliance

October 23, 2012

Britain's Serious Fraud Office announced new policies earlier this month on how it will enforce the Bribery Act. The agency says it is now taking a harder line on facilitation payments and corporate hospitality, and providing fewer leniencies for companies that self-report wrongdoing than it has promised in the past. "The SFO stance is hardening, and companies are complacent at their peril," says Barry Vitou, a partner at London law firm Pinsent Masons.

U.K. Gives More Guidance on Good Comply-or-Explain Disclosure

February 28, 2012

As the European Commission weighs a tougher model of corporate oversight, Britain's Financial Reporting Council is defending its more flexible "comply or explain" approach. The FRC is meeting with companies and investor groups, and it has shed more light on what it wants to see when a company explains why it isn't complying with the standard Corporate Governance Code.

Ten Global Compliance Trends to Watch in 2012

January 03, 2012

The United States isn't the only place with big changes afoot; inside is a preview of the top 10 global compliance trends to watch for in 2012. Among them: stricter data protection laws, tougher corporate governance rules, more U.K. Bribery Act litigation, a breakdown of Big 4 power, huge strides for cloud computing, and much more.

Tax Fears Forces Companies to Look Abroad

July 25, 2011

A quarter of large UK businesses are thinking of moving some or all of their operations overseas, with the majority of them saying increased tax costs are their reason for wanting to go.

Britain Warns Europe Not to Ditch Governance Principle

July 22, 2011

Britain's corporate regulator has warned the European Commission not to undermine the "comply or explain" principle as it develops a new cross-Europe approach to corporate governance.

British Regulator Issues Record Corruption Fine

July 22, 2011

Britain's Financial Services Authority has slapped a record £7 million ($11.4 million) fine on one of the country's biggest insurance brokers for failing to have good internal controls to prevent corruption. The regulator said Willis Limited had not done enough to monitor payments to third parties that helped the broker win contracts in Russia and Egypt.

FSA Hitting Firms With Smaller Fines, On Average

July 16, 2011

The UK Financial Services Authority has hardened its enforcement strategy over the last two years, but when a few record cases are set aside the average fine imposed by the regulator against firms has actually fallen, according to a new analysis.

UK Shareholders Have Ridiculous Priorities, says Proxy Agency

July 15, 2011

UK company shareholders are applying a "ridiculous" set of priorities when voting on board proposals, according to an analysis by proxy agency PIRC.

Courts Reject Claim that Bribery Raids Were Unlawful

July 14, 2011

The UK Serious Fraud Office can restart its bribery investigation into Alstom after the courts refused a legal challenge from two of the engineering company's directors.

Britain's Corporate Watchdog Rethinks Confusing Role

July 08, 2011

Britain's Financial Reporting Council is planning a major overhaul of the way it works, after conceding that its activities are often "impenetrable" to outsiders. The regulator, which enforces financial reporting laws, sets accounting and governance rules, and oversees audit firms, said it would streamline its structure.

Fraud Chief Warns Foreign Companies as Bribery Act Goes Live

July 01, 2011

Britain's tough new anti-bribery legislation finally took effect today, and was greeted with a warning from the head of the Serious Fraud Office that foreign companies would be in his firing line.

British Government Blasts Audit Profession for Lack of Reform

June 21, 2011

A U.K. parliamentary committee published a report criticizing the British audit profession and accusing firms and regulators of contributing to the financial crisis. The report calls on authorities to end the Big 4's dominance of the audit market and seeks legislation that would encourage talks between bank auditors and financial regulators.

KPMG Warns On Pension Rule Changes

June 21, 2011

The new international standard on pension accounting finalized last week includes subtle changes that could have ramifications beyond financial accounting, KPMG have warned.

London Improves Insider Dealing Record

June 14, 2011

Insider trading is on the decline in Britain, according to data released by market regulator Financial Services Authority. The level of suspicious share price movements ahead of takeover announcements last year—21 percent—was the lowest since 2003, and dropped from 31 percent in 2009.

British Fraud Agency Reprieved, For Now

June 10, 2011

The British government has dropped its controversial plan to scrap the Serious Fraud Office, which investigates and prosecutes financial crime, at least for now. The original plan was to split its responsibilities between the newly created National Crime Agency and the Economic Crime Agency. That plan is now on hold until those agencies are fully operational.

Survey Highlights 'Spreadsheet Risk'

June 06, 2011

According to a new survey, over half of the U.K. corporate spreadsheet user respondents have never received any formal training in the software they use and nearly three-quarters say no internal department checks the accuracy of their spreadsheets. The report's author says companies are putting undue trust in the integrity of analysis captured in spreadsheets.

Compromised Remuneration Committees Boosting Exec Pay

May 31, 2011

Average chief executive pay at UK-listed companies increased by a third last year and has quadrupled over the last 12 years, despite flat share prices, according to research from proxy agency Manifest.

Fight Against Corruption Losing Momentum

May 27, 2011

International efforts to tackle bribery and corruption are losing momentum, according to Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption group

Australia Should Hold Fire on Exec Pay Laws

May 26, 2011

The Australian government should not introduce new laws on executive pay levels or disclosure, and should think about scrapping some of the complex regulations that exist already, according to a report from its legal advisor.

Doubts Over Europe's Tax Plan

May 23, 2011

The European Union is struggling to gain support for its controversial plan to create a uniform system of calculating corporate rates in its 27 member states. Some members fear the plan, known as the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, would undermine their national sovereignty. The British government and six other states said they will not back the plan.

British Anti-trust Regulator Decides Audit Market Needs Fixing

May 17, 2011

The Big Four accounting firms dominate the British audit market in a way that restricts, distorts or prevents competition, the country's anti-trust regulator has decided.

Australia and New Zealand Finish Accounts Convergence

May 16, 2011

Australia and New Zealand have adopted new financial reporting standards that complete a project to converge the two countries' accounting regimes.

IASB Shines Light on Hidden Liabilities

May 13, 2011

The International Accounting Standards Board has issued three new standards aimed at bringing off-balance sheet activities into the open. Included in the changes is a controversial ruling to abolish proportionate consolidation, one of the methods that companies outside the United States have used to account for joint ventures. Equity accounting will now be mandatory. More details inside.

Fund Managers Need Better Ethical Disclosure

May 12, 2011

European fund managers should do more to disclose how they operate any investment funds that they market as "ethical", according to an industry association.

New Guidance on Risk Appetite

May 04, 2011

The London-based Institute of Risk Management has released draft guidance aimed at helping organizations to quantify and communicate how willing they are to take risks. The guidance explains how an organization can determine its risk appetite and what role its board of directors should play in the process.

Accountants Get Help to Predict Future

May 03, 2011

The International Federation of Accountants has published draft guidance aimed at helping organizations to make better use of forward-looking business analytics.

Criminals Only Winners From British Fraud Plan

April 28, 2011

The U.K. government is coming under further pressure to abandon controversial plans to scrap the Serious Fraud Office, the agency responsible for prosecuting high-profile financial crimes.

U.S. Execs Lack Bribery Act Knowledge

April 21, 2011

As the July 1 deadline for Britain to begin enforcing its tough new anti-bribery law approaches, many executives in the United States are unprepared. Three-quarters of U.S. business professionals surveyed said they were not familiar with provisions of the Bribery Act, according to research from Deloitte.

Australian Regulator Wants Clearer Prospectus Disclosures

April 15, 2011

Australia's securities regulator has proposed new rules to make corporate prospectuses easier to understand and to improve the risk information they provide.

France Cracks Down on Proxy Firms

April 08, 2011

France has taken further action to control the growing influence of proxy advisory firms. The country's financial regulator told firms to disclose more information about how they operate and said similar rules should be introduced at a European level.

Britain Tries to Cut Reporting 'Clutter'

April 08, 2011

Britain's Accounting Standards Board has issued a report subtitled "Combating Clutter in Annual Reports" that it hopes will give companies some practical guidance on reducing and simplifying disclosures. The report said that clutter was "making it harder for users to find the salient points about the performance of the business."

Europe Sets Course for Tougher Governance Compliance

April 07, 2011

The European Commission will adopt a much tougher approach to corporate governance if it goes ahead with ideas floated in a new policy paper.

Bribery Act Guidance Retreats, Still Fails to Deliver Clarity

April 05, 2011

The British government has finally given prosecutors the green light to start enforcing the country's tough new Bribery Act starting July 1—and also published eagerly awaited guidance suggesting that the anti-corruption law may not be enforced so toughly. One thing that is clear: Compliance departments looking for clarity are out of luck. Details inside.

Big 4 Accused of Dereliction of Duty

April 04, 2011

A British parliamentary investigation report says that "complacency" and "dereliction of duty" on the part of the Big 4 audit firms contributed to the financial crisis. It also says that a "breakdown of dialogue" between bank auditors and regulators made the crisis worse and recommended further investigation into Big 4 dominance of the market.

Europe's National Regulators to Lose Influence

March 25, 2011

As new European Union supervisory bodies get up and running, financial regulators at individual European nations will find their powers curtailed, warns Hector Sants, head of Britain's Financial Services Authority. Three new E.U. financial overseers opened at the start of the year, including the European Securities and Markets Authority.

Britain Promises to Ease Narrative Reporting Rules

March 23, 2011

The U.K. government has promised to "materially simplify" the country's narrative disclosure requirements in an effort to cut the cost of complying with its financial reporting rules.

U.K. to Make Bribery Law Easier for Foreign Companies

March 21, 2011

According to recent press leaks, British authorities will make it easier for non-U.K. companies to comply with the Bribery Act. Reports say foreign companies won't fall under the scope of the Act simply because they are listed on the London Stock Exchange. They must also conduct business in the United Kingdom. More details inside.

Europe Needs Tougher Related-Party Rules

March 15, 2011

The European Corporate Governance Forum is calling on the European Commission to introduce new rules for related-party transactions. The ECGF wants tougher guidelines on the size of transactions that should be disclosed and new rules on when directors should seek shareholder approval for a proposed deal.

Calls for More Auditor Skepticism Will Push Up Fees

March 11, 2011

Businesses in Britain are warning that regulators' efforts there to make auditing firms more skeptical of clients' statements will drive up the cost of compliance unnecessarily. The Financial Reporting Council has proposed that auditors employ "presumptive doubt," an idea Corporate Britain doesn't like at all.

Court Scuppers Europe's Single Patent Plan

March 08, 2011

The European Commission's plans to create a unified patent litigation system were dealt a heavy blow today when the 27-member trading bloc's senior court ruled the idea unlawful.

Smaller Boards Work Best

March 08, 2011

Companies are more likely to succeed if they have a relatively small board, a higher proportion of women directors, and a healthy number of non-executives, according to a study from law firm Eversheds.

Europe Plans Audit Revolution

February 13, 2011

The European Commission announced that it is planning a major review of the audit process. Speaking in Brussels, Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier warned that, "the status quo is not an option." He said large-scale change is necessary after the financial crisis tarnished the reputation of the profession.

United Kingdom Refuses to Change iXBRL Deadline

February 09, 2011

The U.K. government has rejected an eleventh-hour plea from the accounting profession that it delay the introduction of compulsory iXBRL filing of company returns, which is due to start from April 1.

OECD Attacks U.K. Bribery Delay

February 06, 2011

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has criticized the U.K.'s decision to delay the start date of its long-awaited anti-bribery laws, branding the move "very disappointing."

Regulator Warns on Risk Disclosure

February 04, 2011

A corporate reporting regulator has warned U.K.-listed companies to rethink the way they give shareholders information about their main risks and uncertainties.

South Africa Takes Lead on Integrated Reporting

January 27, 2011

South Africa has published what it says are the world's first guidelines for companies on how to produce "integrated" shareholder reports that have a far wider scope than traditional financial accounts.
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