In an attempt to end the stalemate between China and the United States over audits of publicly traded Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges, China has reportedly proposed to allow U.S. regulators to conduct a trial joint inspection of a state-owned enterprise (SOE).
Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), told Bloomberg News that the CSRC this month proposed to the U.S. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) that U.S. authorities “could pick any of its SOEs for a trial joint inspection.”
A previous trial inspection done jointly by Chinese and U.S. regulators failed to yield an agreement, the article said.
PCAOB Chairman William Duhnke III called China’s proposals “materially deficient.”
“For more than a decade we have sought to establish a cooperative relationship with China that is consistent with others around the world,” Duhnke said. “Such a relationship, however, cannot be meaningfully pursued without the Chinese first embracing our core access principles. Despite the CSRC’s recent claims, its proposals remain materially deficient.”
The disagreement centers on China’s refusal to allow U.S. regulators to audit Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. China shields the companies’ books from U.S. auditor scrutiny by claiming there are national security issues at stake. Its proposal to the PCOAB would still require that some information in the audit be redacted, according to Bloomberg.
Several public Chinese companies, Luckin Coffee and video streaming service iQIYI among them, have been accused of falsifying millions of dollars worth of revenue in order to prop up their balance sheets.
The apparent scam that is Luckin Coffee, however, is just one example of a much broader, disturbing problem in the United States, in which China-based firms listed on U.S. stock exchanges con U.S. investors out of billions of dollars. In fact, the problem is so widespread that it was the focus of a 2017 documentary, called ”The China Hustle.”
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have filed legislation that would delist companies that refuse to comply with the PCAOB’s audit requirements for three consecutive years. Foreign-owned companies would also have to certify they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government. The legislation has strong support from President Donald Trump.
That last requirement would still be a major sticking point, as it is generally accepted that Chinese companies are under at least some government control.
Fang’s remarks to Bloomberg News echoed an Aug. 8 statement by the CSRC in response to delisting calls from the Trump administration.
In that statement, the CSRC said it has been proposing joint accounting inspections with U.S. regulators with a show of “total sincerity towards cooperation.” The CSRC also said solving the issue through dialogue is the only way toward a “win-win” situation.
The CSRC could not be reached for comment on its latest proposal to the PCAOB.
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