China and the US worked out a deal on the age-old argument where Chinese firms are not allowed to hand over paperwork to US institutions for audits. But the agreement is not valid for Hong Kong, and so close to a hundred current and former KPMG partners got sued over the case of the bankrupt US-listed China Medical, reports Beida accounting professor Paul Gillis last week at his weblog.
It is a bad day for KPMG. Reuters reports that the Hong Kong High Court has issued a contempt summons to 91 current and former KPMG partners for their failure to hand over audit working papers for US listed China Medical. China Medical is in liquidation and the court apparently has been overseeing the liquidation of Hong Kong subsidiaries. The case is a repeat of an earlier spat with EY over working papers for Standard Water, which was resolved when EY “found” the working papers on a server in Hong Kong.
KPMG says it cannot turn over the working papers without permission from mainland regulators. The US PCAOB reached an enforcement agreement with China that allowed it access to working papers in connection with investigations (but not inspections). Hong Kong has no such arrangements, and this is private litigation.
China has argued national sovereignty and state secrets concerns trump foreign laws requiring the production of documents on Chinese companies listed abroad or doing business abroad. Hong Kong, while part of China, is being treated the same as the United States, presumably to avoid undermining arguments used against the U.S. I seriously doubt there are any state secrets in these working papers.
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