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Watchdog targets listed companies

By Nick Stride

Friday 8th August 2003

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The Securities Commission has been given a mandate to scrutinise listed companies' financial reporting in an effort to catch issuers who are cooking their books.

Commission chairman Jane Diplock said yesterday the watchdog had been given a "modest" allocation in the last Budget to fund a pilot audit programme and was now looking at "resourcing" it.

The programme would use risk-based selection to identify which companies' financial reporting would be examined.

Ms Diplock agreed there was scant evidence of financial reporting irregularities in New Zealand "but we don't know that. Let's have a look."

The commission's new role matches that of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, from which Ms Diplock was recruited two years ago.

ASIC this week launched a an offensive that will audit the financial statements of 440 companies.

A larger sweep last year, aimed at flushing out Enron- and WorldCom-style fiddles, netted only 31 minor instances of breaches of accounting standards among the 1500 issuers examined.

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