Acra to name disqualified directors in public register

Latest 'persistent offender' case sees director fined a record $57k

A company director was on Tuesday fined a record $57,000 for various breaches of the Companies Act, prompting the authorities to step up regulatory actions against persistent offenders.

From next Wednesday, company directors who have been disqualified for repeated breaches of the law will have their status listed on the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's (Acra's) public register, the authority said in a statement yesterday.

Lawrence Fong Kok Liong, 58, had pleaded guilty to 38 charges after failing to hold annual general meetings (AGMs) and failing to file annual returns for 19 companies, Acra said.

Another 78 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

Fong's conviction was the latest in a series of similar filing offences involving five other directors since April, prompting the authority to strengthen its regulatory actions.

Of the five directors, two were fined $1,800 for each charge. This was above the range of $800 to $1,200 per charge that is usually meted out for such offences, Acra said. Fong and the other five directors were disqualified as directors of their companies following their convictions.

As a deterrence, directors will be disqualified if they have been convicted of three or more filing-related offences in five years, or have three or more companies struck off the register within the same period.

Fong had been convicted in 2014 for similar offences. However, 60 of the offences were compounded, which means that they were settled without a conviction.

To help investors and interested stakeholders conduct due diligence on a company, Acra said it will publish a director's disqualified status in the business profile and directors profile report of a company starting next Wednesday.

The public can have access to the information from Acra's online business registration and filing portal for a small fee.

Acra said that holding the AGM and filing annual returns are important statutory requirements.

The AGM allows shareholders to be informed of the financial position of the company and to engage its directors on the matter, while filing annual returns on time enables timely public disclosure of key information such as the health and status of the company, it added.

Individuals who have been disqualified will not be allowed to be a company director or take part in the management of any local or foreign company for five years, starting from the date of the conviction.

Mr Andy Sim, Acra's assistant chief executive of legal services and compliance, said the authority takes a serious view of offenders who persistently fail to hold AGMs and file annual returns on time.

"The high fine that the courts are prepared to impose reinforces our view on the importance of directors complying with their statutory obligations," he said. "We will continue to hold directors to account and press for high fines in egregious cases."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Acra to name disqualified directors in public register'. Print Edition | Subscribe