ESMA publishes final accounting enforcement guidelines

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10 Jul, 2014

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has published its final Guidelines on the enforcement of financial information published by listed entities in the European Union (EU). The aim of the guidelines is to strengthen and promote greater supervisory convergence in existing enforcement practices amongst EU accounting enforcers.

ESMA published a consultation paper on the proposed guidelines in July 2013 and received 32 responses to it. Some responses had been very critical, especially regarding the relationship between the guidelines and the European Transparency Directive, the impression that ESMA seemed to want to assume the role of a standard-setter and the perception that ESMA was assuming an interpretative role. The suggested scope of the proposed guidelines had also been viewed critically by respondents.

The final report ESMA Guidelines on enforcement of financial information published today provides an overview of the feedback received from stakeholders and the ESMA Securities and Markets Stakeholder Group (SMSG) and ESMA's responses. The final guidelines, which reflect ESMA's consideration of the comments received, are presented in an annex to the report.

In response to the comments regarding the need to ensure that ESMA and European enforcers do not interfere with standard-setters' role, ESMA confirms that the role of the enforcers is restricted to regularly bringing to the attention of the standard-setters issues in accounting standards which have come to the enforcers' attention in the course of their work. ESMA also confirms it's view that materiality for enforcement purposes should be the same as defined in the relevant reporting framework. To avoid misunderstandings, ESMA has decided to adjust some terms used, such as 'unlimited scope' and 'focused' examinations in the enforcement process or the description of the actions taken by enforcers when infringements are discovered. As respondents provided extensive comments on whether the financial information provided in prospectuses should be in the scope of these guidelines, ESMA has decided to address this matter separately as part of its work related to the Prospectus Directive.

The guidelines will now be translated into the official languages of the EU. The final texts will be published on ESMA's website and will become effective two months after that publication.

Please click for access to the final report on the ESMA website.

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