You are here
Swiber going under - who's to blame?
So who dropped the ball on Swiber Holdings? Was it SGX as some on the Internet and via WhatsApp messages are claiming? Or is a company's shock bankruptcy after many years of being a listed entity more the responsibility of its directors, management, bankers and auditors? I would say yes. If there is a hierarchy of responsibility/accountability for this sort of unexpected bankruptcy, it has to the start with the company first and foremost followed by its auditors. These are the parties who have a primary responsibility to the investing public and the company's shareholders to ensure proper stewardship of the firm's assets. In Swiber's case, there is an excellent article in today's BT by corporate governance expert Mak Yuen Teen that should be read by anyone interested in Swiber's decline. It takes a hard look at Swiber's board and asks some probing questions about the independence of the independent directors, the company's lack of observance of the Code of Corporate Governance and its weak disclosure policies.
After the firm's management, next in line to provide answers should be the company's external auditors, who presumably have passed Swiber fit to continue as a going concern over the past few years when oil prices were sliding. After that, I'd say it'd be the bankers who provided credit to the company - was the proper due diligence done?
Only after the roles played by all these parties are scrutinised is it reasonable to ask whether SGX could have been more on the ball with regards to Swiber's disclosures lapses. These lapses were fully discussed by my colleague Tan Hwee Hwee in her 20 July Hock Lock Siew "Upset over Swiber Holdings’ disclosures ... or lack of'' where she voiced concerns from shareholders and raised questions over the absence of important information in various annoucements as well as the absence of timely updates over the past few months.
The fallout from Swiber going bust will continue for some weeks to come. When the dust settles, I'll be very interested to see where the buck stops when questions are asked about who should shoulder the blame for this sorry episode.