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Securities markets are essential to the functioning of a country’s economy and its financial systems. Liquidity, the efficiency of trade systems and the transparency and accountability of market players are critical aspects of a modern securities markets system.

Technological innovations, the globalization of financial markets, the consolidation of stock exchanges and the increasingly important role of financial markets in the development of emerging economies underline the rapid changes in securities markets.

The functioning of securities markets and the lack of sound corporate governance
principles have become major topics of discussion in the last decade. This interest has been intensified by recent corporate failures and the role of institutional investors in protecting and representing their clients. Some Business Week estimates indicate that the Enron collapse alone accounted for a loss of $32 billion in stock market capitalization in the US. Other estimates suggest that financial fraud and the restatements of financial statements have cost US investors over $100 billion in the last 6-7 years; more than the Great Depression caused in the 1930s in total.

This has caused the regulators in the United States and the European Union to take a stronger stand in the enforcement of good corporate governance practices and securities markets regulations. The US Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the SEC now requires the certification of annual reports by CEOs and the American stock exchanges are introducing new corporate governance listing requirements to strengthen corporate accountability. In Europe, a corporate governance action plan has been launched and several recommendations on director remuneration and responsibility have been introduced.
 

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