Scores of big European companies are finding the cost of complying with provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance rules prohibitive. BP, for example, estimates it will cost $125 million, the Times of London reported Wednesday.
The only reason many European companies keep their U.S. listing on such bourses as the New York Stock Exchange is because of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that a delisted foreign company must continue to abide by costly Sarbanes-Oxley rules, unless it can prove it has fewer than 300 U.S. shareholders.
But Tuesday SEC chairman William Donaldson hinted he would ease that rule, thus making it simpler for non-U.S. companies to stop trading their shares in the United States.
"Although we don't know the detail yet, (Donaldson's) statement is to be welcomed," said Howard Davies, former head of Britain's equivalent to the SEC.