Europe set for ‘super regulator’

Link: Hewitt tells US to lay off UK firms

Speaking at a conference in Brussels, Frits Bolkestein, the European commissioner for internal markets and taxation, said he was examining the role of the new US accounting regulator and called for a European equivalent with similar powers.

Bolkestein urged countries to adopt one set of accounting and auditing rules and called for the convergence of corporate governance codes.But he warned: ‘This will not be worth much unless it is backed up by effective enforcement.’

His comments came last week during a visit by Harvey Pitt, chairman of US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission, who was in Brussels to discuss the extent of powers to be given to the new US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

But senior figures in the UK played down the commissioner’s comments, instead arguing for a common set of standards to be regulated by national authorities.

The EU has agreed to adopt international accounting and auditing standards by 2005 Ñ before this agreement there had been a fear that the European Commission would introduce its own set of standards.

Andrew Harding, UK executive director of ACCA, said there was growing pressure for consistent regulation across Europe but added: ‘Whether the way to achieve this is through another layer, I’m not sure.’

Harding said the simplest solution would be the creation of a body that monitored the work of national regulators from within Europe.

Peter Wyman, the ICAEW president, said there should be consistency in the interpretation and application of standards. ‘There should be a single approach, but carried out at national level.’

Wyman said the proposals in the EC’s ‘Lamfalussy’ report, which set out four levels of securities markets regulation, made more sense then a single super regulator.

‘We are a long way off the idea of a central regulator,’ he said.

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