Dispute raises doubt for China stocks in U.S.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

BEIJING A mounting dispute between Washington and Beijing over access to records of Chinese companies with U.S.-traded shares might force major corporate names such as oil giant PetroChina and search engine Baidu to withdraw from American stock exchanges.

The dispute highlights the clash between heightened U.S. anti-fraud efforts and official Chinese secrecy.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused the Chinese affiliates of five major accounting firms of impeding fraud investigations of nine companies by failing to hand over documents. Beijing has resisted expanding access to corporate records as a violation of its sovereignty.

Without a compromise, China-based accountants might be stripped of authorization to prepare financial reports required by U.S. regulators. Eventually, that could make it impossible to trade Chinese shares in the United States.

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