From CompliNEWS | Financial Service Intelligence Watch

Controversy surrounds proposed access to private company financial statements and director pay disclosures in Companies Amendment Bill

Objections to proposals in the Companies Amendment Bill that would allow public access to the financial statements of private companies has continued, says a Business Day report. Business has also objected to the naming of directors of private companies whose pay is disclosed in terms of the proposals for the disclosure of the wage gap between the highest and lowest paid employees within companies. Parliament’s Trade & Industry Committee held hearings on Tuesday and yesterday on the Bill and has received written submissions by more than 40 entities. The National Clothing Retail Federation of SA (NCRF) told committee members yesterday it opposed the proposal to extend the right to access information to include financial statements of private companies to any person without a beneficial interest. The NCRF’s Michael Lawrence said such a measure would increase ‘the risk of anti-competitive behaviour with competitors being able to obtain financial information (which could include commercially sensitive information and trade secrets) for ill-gotten purposes and gains.’ The NCRF also strongly opposed the disclosure in the private company’s audited annual financial statements of the remuneration and benefits of individually named directors, which it said was a violation of their right to privacy under the Protection of Personal Information Act and the Constitution. ‘This provision would be the equivalent of making a private citizen’s pay slip public information,’ said Lawrence.

Meanwhile, the Banking Association SA’s Nellia Musamba said the Bill should expressly state that the disclosure of wages excludes the names of the employees, unless the highest-paid employee is a director or prescribed officer whose remuneration is in any event disclosed. However, the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism motivated greater disclosure of the financial records of companies. According to the Business Day report, it said the Bill did not provide sufficient public access to company information. It called for it to allow the disclosure not only of beneficial interests, but also of beneficial ownership of companies. Shareholder activist organisation Just Share SA called for the Bill to include the disclosure of gender wage gaps. Women earn about 30% less in real monthly earnings than men, said Just Share’s Tracey Davies.

Read the Full Business Day report here