L'Europe et les scandales financiers

Le récent accord portant sur 1,4 milliards de dollars entre les principales banques d'investissement et la SEC, le gendarme américain de la Bourse, illustre l'échec du système de régulation et d'incitations sous-tendant la série de scandales qui a secoué le monde des affaires aux USA ces dernières années. Le fait que les analystes financiers ont délibérément biaisé leurs rapports pour attirer les investisseurs et les clients montre avec quelle facilité les mécanismes de contrôle peuvent s'enrayer, même à l'intérieur d'un système très évolué, laissant les porteurs minoritaires sans défense.

Les dirigeants, des capitalistes par essence, sont généralement favorables aux projets d'investissement massif, aux fusions et aux acquisitions. Et les banques d'investissement ne sont que trop heureuses d'abonder dans ce sens. L'augmentation de la valeur des actions favorise la constitution d'empires commerciaux et financiers et constitue une aubaine pour les dirigeants détenteurs de stocks-options. Aussi, ont-ils tendance à adopter des méthodes comptables "agressives" ou "créatrices" qui justifient leurs prévisions, masquent les risques et permettent de montrer une progression régulière des bénéfices. Au bout du compte, ce sont les dirigeants et non un quelconque actionnaire qui contrôlent l'accès aux postes les mieux placés et aux places rémunératrices de consultants. Aussi, les auditeurs internes et externes sont-ils souvent cooptés.

Les scandales qui ont ébranlé le monde de la finance et des affaires aux USA ont mis en évidence des lacunes dans le contrôle, par exemple des insuffisances dans la surveillance de l'obligation d'informer et la confiance excessive accordée au contrôle par les pairs pour les auditeurs. On a aussi trop cru en la "muraille de Chine" censée séparer les activités des maisons de courtage et des banques d'investissement. Les normes comptables américaines ne permettent pas de prendre en compte les frontières mal définies qui s'élèvent entre les transactions hors bilan, les méthodes de financement structuré et les évaluations byzantines de contrat.

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