Regulating against False Corporate Accounting: Does the Companies Act 71 of 2008 Have Sufficient Teeth?
Author: Etienne A Olivier
Affiliations: Lecturer in Law, Rhodes University
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 33 Issue 1, 2021, p. 1 – 24
This article questions whether the enforcement mechanisms in the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (the Act) are adequate deterrents to financial reporting misconduct and whether they provide suitable sanctions to punish wrongdoers. The South African regulatory approach to company directors and financial reporting compliance places great emphasis on stakeholder protection and board accountability. By criminalising the publication of false financial statements, providing civil remedies to prejudiced stakeholders and robust protection for whistleblowers, empowering regulatory agencies to investigate allegations of accounting fraud and penalise transgressors, and by creating a broad net of liability for corporate decision-makers who allow or cause the publication of false financial reporting, the Act takes a firm stance that accounting fraud must be discouraged. The Act’s enforcement mechanisms in respect of financial reporting are commendable, but detection and enforcement will likely remain challenging unless a concerted effort is made to educate the public about financial reporting misconduct and its dangers, sufficient funding is provided to the regulatory agencies, consistent use is made of the available criminal, civil, and administrative remedies, and Parliament reconsiders the appropriateness of the maximum penalties for accounting fraud.