Asia Journalists Say Corporate Governance Training Helps Them Do Better Jobs

As economic integration accelerates following the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community last year, the media needs to play a heightened role as a market watchdog, pushing listed companies to improve disclosure and transparency.

To help the media perform its role more effectively, IFC last month organized a two-day training in Bangkok for two dozen journalists from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to boost their understanding of what constitutes good and bad corporate governance practices.

“The media can help champion transparency and accountability in public companies,” said Chris Razook, IFC Corporate Governance Lead for East Asia and the Pacific. “Well-run companies are more profitable, sustainable and able to attract more foreign investment.”

Trang Nguyen, a Vietnam Investment Review reporter who took the training, said the training helped improve her investigative skills when covering financial stories.

“I can now apply the techniques learned such as spotting red flags or interpreting the numbers in annual reports to discover would-be scandals or disasters that may well be happening in a company,” Nguyen said. “As reporters, we need to dig deeper into the company to find out newsworthy information for our readers.”

Journalists responded robustly to a presentation by Kasikornbank Chief Executive Kattiya Indaravijaya, who discussed how her bank tightened risk controls and improved disclosure following the “Tom Yum Goong” Asian financial crisis in 1997.

She said her bank has been giving more weight to environmental and social considerations when making lending decisions these days – an emerging trend as companies face greater pressure from regulators and investors to improve their non-financial disclosure and adopt take a more responsible approach to lending and investment.

Participants also liked a session by Grant Thornton Bangkok audit partner Noel Ashpole who explained how to analyze financial statements to uncover problems, such as theft of assets or inflation of profits. She shared case studies such as the accounting scandal at India’s Satyam Computer Systems to illustrate how companies and investors could suffer when corporate governance failed.

“The training gave me a great number of leads to stories,” said Keith Richard D. Mariano, a reporter of Business World in Manila. “I particularly liked how it encouraged me to become critical of every press statement, financial report, and other documents released by companies.”

Since the training, Nguyen has shared her materials with colleagues to raise their awareness of issues such as the structures of state-owned and family-owned businesses, conflicts of interest between directors and shareholders, and related-party transactions.

“I know now we should pay attention to how companies are actually governed and managed as it may well affect the ups and downs of the companies themselves,” she said.

Mariano said more reporters should undergo corporate governance training.

“Journalism has great potential to keep companies, which provide jobs to people and sustain the economy, on the right path by checking those controlling them on behalf of, or along with, the stakeholders,” he said.

Related Links:

Publication: Who’s Running the Company: A Guide to Reporting on Corporate Governance

Photo Album: East Asia and the Pacific Media Training Workshop on CG Reporting, Bangkok, Thailand, August 2016

Articles written by journalists participating in the media training:

August 2016