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SEC needs to address overseas accounting: Nasdaq CEO

Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman

(Reuters) Regulators need to address transparency and accounting issues at companies based in foreign jurisdictions that are looking to go public through the U.S. markets, Nasdaq Inc. Chief Executive Adena Friedman said on Thursday.

Nasdaq recently proposed new restrictions on initial public offerings, which if approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), would make it harder for some Chinese companies to debut on the Nasdaq.

The new rules, which include greater scrutiny of the audit firms of overseas companies it lists, will help Nasdaq ensure those firms meet its standards, Ms. Friedman said at an industry conference held by Piper Sandler.

Oversight of audit firms is led by the SEC and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which are prevented from inspecting audit work papers in China.

“The broader issue, though, is this issue of disclosure and PCAOB oversight of the audit firms and I think that's an issue for the SEC to address,” Ms. Friedman said.

U.S. investors have in recent years increased their exposure to emerging markets, including China, bringing accounting disclosure shortcomings to light.

That prompted the SEC on May 4 to announce a roundtable on oversight issues of U.S.-listed foreign companies. No date has been given for the event.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation on May 20 that could prevent some Chinese companies from listing shares on U.S. exchanges unless they follow standards for U.S. audits and regulations. The bipartisan measure still must pass the House of Representatives and be signed by the president to become law.

The head of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd said earlier on Thursday at the Piper Sandler conference that many U.S.-listed Chinese firms would not qualify to list on his exchange, but many “great companies” listed in America were now looking to list in Hong Kong.