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Corporate Governance


Companies Update
2 August 2007
Update no 08/07

Important information for ASX Listed Entities

ASX Corporate Governance Council releases revised
Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations 

The ASX Corporate Governance Council ("Council") has released the second edition of the Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations (Revised Principles). Council has also released a Response Paper setting out its reasons for changes to the Principles. 

This is the first revision of the document since it was released in March 2003. The Council's changes to the Principles represent the results of its review of the Principles and its consideration of over 100 submissions received in response to the November 2006 Consultation Paper and Exposure Draft of Council's proposed changes. Overall submissions expressed strong support for the Principles and the 'if not, why not' approach to corporate governance reporting.

Key changes

The key changes are:

  • 'Best practice' has been removed from the title and the text of the document - to be known as the ASX Corporate Governance Council's Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations. Council's intention is to eliminate any perception that the Principles are prescriptive and so not to discourage companies from adopting alternative practices and 'if not, why not' reporting where appropriate. 

  • There are now eight Principles instead of ten and 26 instead of 28 Recommendations. Principle 8 has been amalgamated into Principles 1 and 2, and Principle 10 amalgamated into Principles 3 and 7.

  • Guidance to Principle 2: Structure the Board to Add Value sets out a list of 'relationships affecting independent status' that a company should take into account when determining the independence of a director rather than providing a 'definition' of independence. Companies are required to disclose their reasons for considering a director 'independent' notwithstanding the existence of one of these relationships. 

  • Council recommends that companies' trading policies prohibit hedging unvested options and that any hedging of vested options should be disclosed to the company under Principle 3: Promote Ethical and Responsible Decision-Making. This position complements the Government proposal to amend the Corporations Act to require companies to disclose their policy on hedging of options.

  • Principle 7: Recognise and Manage Risk now makes it clear that material business risks involve both financial and non-financial risks. Companies are encouraged to adopt appropriate risk oversight and management policies and internal control systems rather than disclosing specific material business risks. Submissions overwhelmingly opposed disclosure of specific risks.

  • Recommendation 7.2 now deals with 'material business risks' in broad terms. Where a company has risks relating to sustainability or corporate social responsibility (CR) that are material to its business they should be considered in the context of the revised Recommendation 7.2.

  • Recommendation 7.3 contains a revised version of the existing 'assurance' or 'sign-off' on financial reporting risks. The Recommendation requires the board to disclose that it has received assurance from the CEO/CFO that the declaration under section 295A of the Corporations Act is founded on a sound system of risk management and internal control which is operating effectively in all material respects in relation to financial reporting risks. 

  • Recommendation 9.4 has been deleted and instead commentary has been added to Recommendation 8.2 suggesting companies may wish to consult shareholders about equity-based incentive plans involving the issue of new shares to executives, other than directors, prior to implementing them.

Other major findings to emerge from Council's review:

  • Strong support for the 'if not, why not' reporting approach and general agreement that there should be no exemption from the Principles for small and medium-sized entities.

  • Significant interest in sustainability and CR issues, although submissions indicate that sustainability/CR has a wide variety of meanings. The bulk of submissions focussed on the risk and risk management aspects of sustainability/CR. Many submissions said that any new Recommendation should avoid constraining the ability of companies to adopt approaches that best suit their circumstances and the needs and interests of their investors and stakeholders, and should not restrict their ability to comment on other aspects and objectives of their sustainability/CR activities.

  • Council considers that sustainability/CR issues are best reflected in the 'mainstream' of corporate governance activities; that is, through strengthened risk management processes and reporting.

  • The importance of material business risks, including those related to sustainability/CR, should be clarified and recognised. Companies are encouraged to establish appropriate risk management and oversight policies and structures, and to disclose a description of those policies in the context of Principle 7. 

Effective date

Listed entities will be required to report against the Revised Principles in the first financial year commencing on or after 1 January 2008. Where a listed entity's financial year begins on 1 January, disclosure will be required in relation to the financial year 1 January 2008 - 31 December 2008 and will be made in the annual report published in 2009. Where a listed entity's financial year begins on 1 July, disclosure will be required in relation to the financial year 1 July 2008 - 30 June 2009 and will be made in the annual report published in 2009. 

Listed entities are encouraged to make an early transition to the Revised Principles and are requested to consider reporting by reference to the Recommendations in their corporate reporting for the 2007 - 2008 year. This will facilitate constructive feedback to Council on any implementation issues. This will also demonstrate the commitment of listed entities to enhanced corporate governance practices and disclosure about them to investors. 

In order to assist listed entities and others to implement and interpret the Revised Principles, ASX is involved in a number of educational seminars and awareness raising programs nationwide. ASX Corporate Governance Council members are also hosting educational sessions in major capital cities. 

Listed entities will receive copies of the Revised Principles and the Council Response Paper as part of a mail out to all listed entities on 2 August 2007. These documents as well as a document comparing the first and second editions are also available from the ASX website.

An updated Guidance Note 9A Corporate Governance - ASX Corporate Governance Council - Revised Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations will be released shortly.

To help keep our Listed Entities informed of information and events ASX will be sending emails to the Company Secretary's Office from time to time. You are receiving this email because you have been identified as a key contact within the Company Secretary's Office at your organisation. If you would like to update your email address please do so via the Directors/Senior Management page on ASX Online for Companies. Feel free to forward this email to any relevant parties within your organisation.