US to delist firms that fail to meet accounting standards

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said companies that do not open books to Public Company Accounting Oversight Board will be excluded from local exchanges

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Chinese app TikTok cannot continue in its present form collecting data on Americans on a large scale. AFP
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The US Treasury said companies from China and elsewhere that do not meet American accounting standards and comply with audit requirements will be delisted from stock exchanges in the country by the end of 2021.

"As of the end of next year ... Chinese companies, [and] any other companies, they all have to comply with the same exact accounting, or they will be delisted on the exchanges," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Monday.

The Treasury has already sent recommendations to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates US markets, that “Chinese firms are held to the same standards” as US companies.

Mr Mnuchin said the SEC was expected to adopt its proposals.

His comments follow a report by the President's Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG) – an advisory body that included Mr Mnuchin and SEC chairman Jay Clayton – last week in response to US President Donald Trump’s June 4 memorandum on protecting US investors from “significant risks from Chinese companies”.

“The US is the premier jurisdiction in the world for raising capital … we will not compromise on the core principles that underpin investor confidence in our capital markets,” said Mr Mnuchin, who chaired the group.

The group's proposed remedies "will increase investor protection and level the playing field for all companies listed on US exchanges”, he added.

The recommendations target an issue that has irked US regulators for many years – China’s refusal to let assessors from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to check audits of Chinese companies such as Alibaba and Baidu that trade on US exchanges.

Industry analysts said the issue has been brought to the fore due to the ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

Mr Trump has also threatened to ban Chinese video streaming app TikTok from the US market over national security concerns unless an American company buys it by September 15.

Mr Mnuchin said on Monday that TikTok cannot continue in its present form collecting data on Americans on a large scale and added the Treasury has “tools” to control it.

FILE PHOTO: Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, speaks during the launch of Alibaba's office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

“We can’t have an app that’s collecting information on Americans of this size and scale. It’s not going to continue to exist in this format,” Mr Mnuchin told CNBC.

“To the extent, [if] there is an appropriate US buyer that can make us comfortable with the security issues going forward that deal will be approved … if not, the President has given a deadline and it will be shut down.”

The Trump administration's efforts to ban Chinese technology apps such as TikTok and WeChat represent "an intensification of his anti-China agenda", in the run-up to this year's US presidential election in November, according to Eli Lee, head of investment strategy at Bank of Singapore.

This "plays well to his base and likely also to an American public, of which 73 per cent of adults now view China unfavourably according to the Pew Research Centre," Mr Lee said in a note on Tuesday.