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Address by Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,
At MAS Staff Seminar
29 October 2002
Market Discipline and Caveat Emptor
22. Our efforts to promote market discipline and a caveat emptor regime have focussed on enhancing the amount, quality and timeliness of information disclosed by institutions. We have shifted from a merit-based supervisory approach to a disclosure-based approach that emphasises market discipline to incentivise financial institutions to conduct their business in a sound, efficient, and professional manner. The local banks in particular have significantly improved their disclosure practices.
23. We must continue to update our disclosure standards in line with industry developments and international best practice. Furthermore, the mindset change is not yet complete. The public still expects to be protected from downside risks, for example when playing the stock market, but more so when depositing their money in banks. Hence one major motivation for introducing deposit insurance is to change this mindset, and get people to understand that only a limited first tranche of their deposits with a bank is protected should the bank run into trouble.
24. But disclosure by itself is not enough. It must be accompanied by investor education. Investors have to understand and use the information provided to them. They must learn to make sense of this information and use it to look after their own interests. We also need a pool of knowledgeable analysts and journalists who will shine the spotlight on any obscure fine print that the lay investor fails to notice. A more informed and sophisticated investor base will reinforce market discipline and form the basis for a more vibrant and mature financial sector. In all these respects, we have a long way to go.
25. Market discipline also requires an effective enforcement regime. To preserve investor confidence, penalties for transgressions must be swift and appropriate. MAS now has the power to investigate and bring a court action for market misconduct under the new civil penalty regime. This will complement the existing criminal penalty regime administered by CAD.”
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