Hong Kong and Mainland China Join Force in Stock Market Regulatory Enforcement

Last Fall, with a single stroke — carrying both symbolic and substantive significance — China and Hong Kong signaled to the world their plans for deeper commercial integration and a commitment to vigorous, modern age law enforcement practices. U.S. capital markets and their regulatory watchdogs will no doubt sit up and take notice of this historic achievement. 2014 October 17, China Securities Regulatory Commission ("CSRC") and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong ("SFC") signed an agreement (the "MoU") to strengthen regulatory and enforcement cooperation, six months after the authorities jointly announced the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect (the "Connect Program"), a pilot program aimed to establish mutual stock market access between mainland China and Hong Kong. Taken together the MoU and the Connect Program will permit collaboration between CSRC, a Chinese government body under direct supervision of the State Council, and the SFC, the independent Hong Kong securities regulator. The benefits of this collaboration will flow to Chinese companies seeking to tap deep capital pools in Hong Kong and global investors who want to invest their money in well-regulated markets. Free exchange of documents across the China-HK border, notice of cross border investigations and the inevitable increased dialogue between Hong Kong and China creates the kind of symbiotic regulatory environment that will prompt other avenues of investigative collaboration. Over time, this cooperative relationship could be the beginning of a regime that one day might challenge the U.S. claim to have the safest capital markets in the world. While it remains to be seen how and to what extent the two regulators will carry out joint enforcement actions, the full spectrum of market stakeholders will be presented with new opportunities in the region. This early step is another move towards transparency that might make investors cheer and force corporate officers to take notice.