Taming unethical practices in the market place



When the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicated recently that it would start to ‘name and shame’ market operators who engage in unethical practices, not a few of the operators felt the earth move beneath their feet. After all, some of them had been discovered to have breached the rules and contributed to the loss of confidence by investors in the market.

The director general of SEC, Arunma Oteh had at the breakfast meeting of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) disclosed that 35 stock broking firms were queried for not filing their quarterly returns and other related offences, noting that, the commission would not hesitate to throw them out of the market should they refuse to play by the rules. That obviously helped some of the operators to put their acts together just as it also helped to postpone the day of reckoning for others. Now, that day has arrived.

Last week in far away Montreal, Canada, where she attended the 35th Annual Conference of International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO), Oteh disclosed that SEC had penalised 92 capital market operators for violating the money laundering rules of the commission.

Addressing other regulators at the conference, the SEC DG explained that the operators were punished as part of efforts to discourage others from engaging in infractions and all forms of unethical practices. She said some 390 operators would be penalised for other offences; 221 punished for failure to submit their annual accounts; and 169 others will be punished for late submission of accounts.

According to her, SEC had received 220 new complaints against stockbrokers and 159 others against registrars. She said the complaints against the stockbrokers ranged from unauthorised/fraudulent sale and purchase of shares to falsification of clients’ accounts.

Indeed, Oteh’s pronouncements outside the shores of Nigeria were being corroborated in Lagos by the Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers (CIS) when the president of the Institute, Michael Itegboje informed members that “we do not appear to be displaying adequate degree of professionalism in handling our clients’ instructions to buy or sell securities.”He noted that the current practice if not moderated, would affect the market adversely in the long run and destroy the credibility of stockbrokers and consequently, their means of livelihood. Meanwhile, the Council of the CIS has adopted a new code of ethics and standards of professional conduct which cover both its members and registered students.

The Code is expected to advance the interests of the Nigerian capital market by establishing and maintaining the highest standards of professional excellence and integrity.Stockbrokers are expected to perform their professional activities with due and reasonable skill, care, prudence and diligence and in accordance with the current best industry practice and the high ethical, professional and technical standards expected of them as members and registered students of the Institute.

Market analysts say apart from the ongoing reforms by the regulators, operators need to embark on self regulation with a view to keep the market in good shape. Besides, they observed that it has become imperative for operators to look into other issues affecting their operations. Such matters include adequate capitalization, corporate governance, appropriate technology, training and ethical conduct.


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