AUSTRALIA - Five of Australia's largest superannuation funds have called on the country's corporate companies to encourage good business ethics in order to safeguard against potential regulation, litigation and reputational risks.
The call followed research carried out by the BT Governance Advisory Service, for the Public and Commonwealth Superannuation Schemes (PSSCSS), Catholic Super, VicSuper, the Northern Territory Government and Public Authorities Super Scheme (NTGPASS), and Emergency Services Superannuation.
The research found 83% of companies listed on the S&P/ASX200 had no board oversight of unfair business practices such as price fixing, bid rigging, insider trading, secret commissions or kickbacks.
Head of the BT Governance Advisory Service, Erik Mather, told Global Pensions the research sent a signal to companies that governance and ethics had to become “permanent fixtures on the radar.”
“This should be viewed as pre-emptive action,” he said. “Investors now realise they have to convey their expectations to managers and should make reasonable enquiries to ensure that businesses are properly run.”
Mather also said he doubted whether companies who did not initially meet expectations would be publicly named: “That would only serve to harm the business which the funds have a stake in. Most companies are willing to listen to suggestions and as yet we have never had to cross the boundary where drastic action needs to be taken.”
According to the research, more than half of all companies did not publicly disclose information on their processes to protect against violations of consumer privacy and 46% of companies did not publicly disclose policies protecting whistle blowers. Appropriate codes of conduct among 52% of companies did not address the company’s adherence to responsible marketing and promotion issues such as fair trading and truth in advertising.
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