Public and Private Enforcement of Corporate and Securities Laws: An Empirical Comparison of Hong Kong and Singapore

  • Wai Yee WanEmail author
  • Christopher Chen
  • Say H. Goo


Current scholarship emphasises the correlation between enforcement of corporate and securities laws and strong capital markets. Yet, the issue of how private and public enforcement may achieve the objectives of compensation and optimal deterrence remains controversial. While enforcement strategies have been studied extensively in the US and the UK, comparatively less attention is placed on Asia, where concentrated shareholdings are the norm. This study fills the gap by focusing on Hong Kong and Singapore, two leading international financial centres in Asia. Post Asian financial crisis of 1997, Hong Kong and Singapore have changed their laws to strengthen the private enforcement framework. Public enforcement activities have also been significant. The question is whether these reforms and enforcement activities succeed in reaching the afore-mentioned objectives. Based on our study of ex post enforcement actions, which are actions that may lead to sanctions (such as prosecutions or administrative proceedings) or compensation orders, arising from breaches of directorial duties and corporate disclosure violations involving listed companies from 2000 to 2015, we find that (1) public enforcement dominates over private enforcement; and (2) there are important, but limited, substitutes for private enforcement: securities regulators use public enforcement to obtain compensation for investors, and shareholders file requisitions to remove errant directors. We argue that: (a) there is a significant gap in enforcement strategies for directorial wrongdoing in Singapore; (b) for public enforcement of corporate disclosure violations, the beneficiaries of the compensation should be the investors (rather than the company) and the defendants should only be the errant directors (and not the company). Our study is relevant to those jurisdictions considering the powers of regulators and improving their enforcement framework.


Corporate law Securities laws Enforcement Hong Kong Singapore Shareholder resolutions 



This research was supported by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) Academic Research Fund Tier 2 Grant with the MOE’s official Grant number MOE2015-T2-1-142. This paper benefitted from discussions with Benito Arrunada, Alexa Lam and Holger Spamann. We thank Liu Chenxi for her research assistance.


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Singapore Management UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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