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Copeland Comments on Securities Markets Bill

United Future finance spokesman, Gordon Copeland, comments on the Securities Markets and Institutions Bill, now being considered by Parliament, and the need for New Zealand to re-establish its reputation for ethical business practices.

I look forward to the day when, within a globalised economy, New Zealand companies will be able to go to the capital markets and find investors from around the world willing and ready to direct their funds to this corner of the South Pacific. But before that day arrives we must strive to ensure that the regulatory and ethical environment surrounding our securities markets are such as to inspire confidence in New Zealand as a place to invest.

Four principal objectives must be realised before that confidence in our markets can be secured:

· the protection of investors

· fair, efficient and transparent markets

· the reduction and minimisation of systemic risk

· a reputation for honest and ethical standards

Great Britain became great in the 18th and 19th centuries because it established an international reputation for honesty and reliability in its business dealings.

By contrast in the late 1980s and early 1990s, New Zealand’s reputation for honest dealings – still fortunately amongst the very best in the world – was greatly tarnished and our stock exchange rules and our regulatory environment proved no match for those who adopted short cut measures to wealth at the expense of others.

We were bedevilled with “wine box” type scandals, corporate collapses or rescues and, even in more recent years, insider trading and perceptions of shonky dealings. Our international reputation suffered and investors bypassed our doors. The word “ethics” was dropped from our corporate vocabulary and survival of the fittest became the norm.

This bill and its associated Stock Exchange listing rule updates, as well as the outlawing of insider trading which will follow – in line with international best practice – is a fundamental step on the road to the redemption of our securities markets and of our international reputation.

And the time is opportune. When the select committee reported back this Bill back to the House earlier this year, some members held up the USA regulations as a model to follow.

They could not have foreseen the deluge of accounting scandals, fraudulent tipping advice to investors and the evidence of sheer unprincipled corporate greed which was shortly to be exposed. Millions of people have lost billions if not trillions of dollars and reputations lie in tatters. I wonder how long it will be before investor confidence is restored?

Let’s grab this moment to once again establish New Zealand’s reputation as a good and honest place to do business. We need significant new foreign investment to develop our abundant resources for the good of all. Wood processing alone requires $3 billion of new investment to process the 10 million cubic metre wall-of-wood about to come on stream. We will not have first world health and education facilities for our people until we have a first world economy.

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