Ethical Practice Disclosure of Malaysian Public Listed Companies

Abstract

The Malaysian corporate environment has been shocked by corporate scandals and poor performance among government-related companies, such as 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH), Felda Global Ventures (FGV) and Khazanah Nasional Berhad (KHAZANAH). Despite having strong corporate governance and being strengthened through Malaysia Code of Corporate Governance (MCCG), unethical practices and a lack of transparency remain a problem among Malaysian companies. The purpose of this paper is to examine the level of disclosure of ethical practices among Malaysian public listed companies. Ethical practice disclosure is measured using the modified Ethical Commitment Index (ECI) with six themes derived from the literature; notably, corporate ethical values, action to promote ethics, whistle-blowing policy, code of ethics, sustainability practices, and ethics committee. Through content analysis of the annual reports of 1,115 companies and five years’ observation (2012-2016), this study found there is a need to improve several aspects of ethical practice disclosure. The findings implied that companies supported the MCCG, with most of the companies complying with the recommendations of MCCG 2012 to uphold a high standard of ethical practice. However, supplementary practices, such as disciplinary action, programmes to support a code of ethics, whistle-blowers’ protection, and establishing an ethics committee, are still weak. The findings indicate that the level of ethical practice disclosure among Malaysian public listed companies remains low and raises concern that requires action by regulators. This paper contributes by providing insights into the disclosure of ethical practice among Malaysian public companies.