Interviews

Donald Stewart on Quoted Companies Alliance

4 min read

06 November 2007

Donald Stewart wants to get your voices heard on the European stage. He wants to ensure future EU legislation takes into account the impact it will have on smaller quoted companies in Britain.

Why? Because he’s the recently appointed chairman of the Quoted Companies Alliance, an organisation that fights for the interests of the UK’s smaller entities.

Stewart, who is also a corporate partner at law firm Faegre & Benson, will be in the QCA’s top job for two years. He’s got two priorities for that time: helping non-executive directors and ensuring the views of the UK’s smaller companies are reflected in European legislation.

“We feel there is a considerable scope to effectively raise the level of the game and influence of NEDs in corporate governance,” he said, “and I very much want to advance our European agenda.

“One of the things we’re hampered by in this country is the attitude that a lot of professionals have, which is to ignore European legislation until it comes into force and then to grumble when it comes into force.

“I want to spend more time talking with our colleagues in similar organisations across Europe so that when we do present a point of view to the European Commission, we can say ‘this is a view that is widespread throughout the community’.

“I also want to be able to track European legislation and ideas at a much earlier stage so that we can play a greater role in influencing them.”

Some of the directives that have ‘got away’, so to speak, are the Transparency Directive, the Prospectus Directive and the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

The directives, like so many others, have been poorly received in some quarters and Stewart reckons they “would have been better if we’d spent a lot of time and effort on them earlier”.

But he also says times are a’changing in Brussels. Legislators are going through a “process of self-reflection” amid calls for the EU to concentrate on cross-border measures rather than telling domestic governments what to do.

This will have an effect in the UK, Stewart says. He explains: “We’ve had a lot of domestic legislation inspired by the EU, such as pre-emption rights and the rights of buyout minority shareholders following a takeover offer, which is very much part of our law.

“The internal markets division is going through its old files and has decided to abolish something like one in four company law directives. That will have no effect initially because all these provisions are in place in domestic law.

“But it allows us to open a domestic debate on what we really think about pre-emption rights and the like when we no longer have to have them as part of our EU obligations. If we don’t like the regulations, we can abolish them from our law.”

Stewart believes the new European agenda is a response to the rejection of the draft constitution by French and Dutch voters way back in 2004.

“You’ve got the situation where people are saying what is the EU for? The EU is justifying its existence by pursuing measures to help cross-border trade rather than making national governments change their domestic arrangements because it says so.”