November 18, 2009

life in financial markets: rare action against listed companies

Securities market regulators, including stock exchanges that regulate their intermediaries and issuers, tend to show weakness when it comes to non-compliance of disclosure or any other rules of a stock exchange.

In India, although cases (occasional or frequent or a bit of both, I don't know) of delayed, improper, misleading disclosures by listed companies happen, the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange have never imposed a hefty monetary penalty on any of their listed companies that will send out a clear message to future potential miscreant companies.

No wonder then I was pleasantly surprised yesterday in learning that London Stock Exchange
(LSE) imposed an unprecedented amount of monetary penalty on one of the companies listed {Regal Petroleum, see its price graph below (click on image to see it enlarged & clear)} on

its Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Read LSE's official press release below.

The real challenge before LSE, however, is to keep an intense eye on what their Main Market listed companies. The AIM is for small and medium companies and the Main Market has all the biggies. It is easier to go after the small fish. Therefore, a standing ovation beckons a stock exchange that dares to go after the big fish.

Of course, if there are no violations by any of the big companies then what can you do? But that is an illusion created by the strong lobby groups these big companies manage to create and successfully use in excessively influencing government ministers and regulators' chiefs. You just have to look at India's one-year old Satyam Computers case to see how not a single rupee or dollar fine has been imposed yet by Sebi on the company for rigging its accounts and inflating its profit figures for 3-5 years.

Here then is LSE's press release of yesterday:

17 November 2009


("Regal" or "the Company"). These sanctions were imposed by the AIM Disciplinary Committee for numerous, serious breaches of the AIM Rules in connection with its oil exploration wells in the The London Stock Exchange today issued a public censure and fine of £600,000 against Regal Petroleum plcKallirachi Prospect, an area in the North Aegean Sea.

On 11 separate occasions, Regal failed to take reasonable care to ensure that its announcements were not misleading, false or deceptive, and did not omit material information. On two occasions, Regal also failed to release price sensitive information without delay.

In particular, Regal contravened AIM Rule 9 (equivalent to the current AIM Rule 10) by:

using language in its announcements that created a misleading impression as to the potential commercial viability of the Kallirachi Prospect;
being over-optimistic in the information it notified, focussing on the higher end of expectations without adequate explanation of this fact, and omitting an adequate description of the risks associated with the Prospect; and
not accurately reflecting in its announcements the test results from the Kallirachi wells or the conclusions of independent experts on which the announcements were based

In contravention of AIM Rule 10 (equivalent to the current AIM Rule 11), Regal failed to announce without delay poor test results and the plug and abandonment of the two wells drilled within the Kallirachi Prospect.

Nick Bayley, Head of UK Regulation at London Stock Exchange Group, said:

"Today's public censure and fine closes an exceptional case in AIM's history. It is unprecedented in terms of the seriousness of the rule breaches involved and the resultant market impact. These factors contributed to the AIM Disciplinary Committee's decision to impose the highest fine in AIM's history.

"Following an investigation by the Exchange and the FSA, the Exchange's action was contested by Regal, resulting in lengthy disciplinary proceedings. Today's action demonstrates that the Exchange takes the accurate and timely disclosure of price sensitive information by quoted companies very seriously. Whatever the size, profile or complexity of the breach, the Exchange is prepared to take firm action against companies that fall short of the required standards."

Full details of the breaches can be found in the censure.
- ends -
For further information please contact:
Patrick Humphris / Alastair Fairbrother
Press Office +44 (0)20 7797 1222

Background to Regal Petroleum:
Regal Petroleum, a company focussing on exploration, development and production of oil and gas assets in various countries including Greece, Ukraine and Romania, was admitted to AIM in September 2002.
Relevant Regulatory Provisions:
All references to the AIM Rules in today's censure are to those in effect at May 2003. While the AIM Rules were amended during the Relevant Period, the rules that are the subject of this censure remain unchanged, other than in respect of their numbering. The equivalent rules currently in force are Rules 10 and 11 of the AIM Rules for Companies, June 2009:
AIM Rule 10
The information which is required by these rules must be notified by the AIM company no later than it is published elsewhere. An AIM company must retain a Regulatory Information Service provider to ensure that information can be notified as and when required.
An AIM company must take reasonable care to ensure that any information it notifies is not misleading, false or deceptive and does not omit anything likely to affect the import of such information.
It will be presumed that information notified to a Regulatory Information Service is required by these rules or other legal or regulatory requirement, unless otherwise designated.
AIM Rule 11
An AIM company must issue notification without delay of any new developments which are not public knowledge concerning a change in:
♦ its financial condition;
♦ its sphere of activity;
♦ the performance of its business; or
♦ its expectation of its performance,
which, if made public, would be likely to lead to a substantial movement in the price of its AIM securities.

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