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Securities Commission Air NZ Report Embarrassing

The Securities Commission report into comments made by Helen Clark is a gift to those who claim that New Zealand securities regulation lacks integrity, ACT Commerce Spokesman Stephen Franks said.

"It makes the Securities Commission look as if it is colluding to make insider-trading law a joke. This has taken the Commission six months. Perhaps they got so close to it they cannot see how naive it looks from the report alone. There are two truly ludicrous conclusions:

1. The Commission accepts the Prime Minister's evidence in relation to her don't sell statement that "I had no reason to form a view as to whether or not [a government plan to inject funds] was price sensitive at the time I received it, and have not formed any view since then".

The market had bounced around several times earlier that month in response to politicians' statements; including her own the previous day.

Even the most business-ignorant politician knew that hints as to the government's intentions were the main information the market was hungry for, to price Air New Zealand shares.

She had just been at a meeting where confidentiality was stressed and recorded in the minutes.

2. The Commission's view "that, on the evidence available to it, nothing was said or disclosed [by Helen Clark to Don Turkington of Forsyth Barr in his firm's broking room]... regarding the affairs of Air New Zealand that was inappropriate or indiscrete" in a phonecall at 9.30am on 25 September. She had asked "what the market reaction would be to participation by the government as a new equity funder of Air New Zealand ...".

The price then rocketed before her public "don't sell". Market turn over was several times that on any other relevant day.

The Commission says "Whether [the conversation] `became known to others and was misreported as an approach by the government' is not known to the Commission. Who did they ask?

The report is a must-read guide to loop holes for every would-be insider trader in New Zealand. If you want to give a buy tip just say, "whatever you do, don't sell". If the Commission confronts you, simply say you didn't know what you were doing.

On other hand the Commission might approach people without political clout differently. Commerce Minister Paul Swain's Securities Markets & Institutions Bill removes shareholder rights to enforce insider-trading law. This report makes that change more ominous," Mr Franks said.


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