Malaysia's Sime Darby Plantations says securities panel probes green disclosures

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s Securities Commission has begun an investigation into palm giant Sime Darby Plantations, the company said on Thursday, following a complaint by a non-government body in the wake of a U.S. ban on imports over accusations of forced labour.

Anti-trafficking group Liberty Shared has accused the world’s largest producer of sustainably-made palm oil of wrongful disclosures in its 2019 Sustainability Report, the firm said in a statement.

“As a responsible corporate citizen listed on the Malaysian bourse, Sime Darby Plantations will cooperate fully with the Securities Commission,” it said.

The Malaysian watchdog did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, it confirmed last month to Reuters that it had received a complaint, while declining to disclose details of a matter under review.

In December, U.S. customs issued a ‘withhold release order’ on the company, after Liberty Shared petitioned the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last year to ban Sime Darby products, citing evidence of labour abuse.

Sime Darby added that it has begun legal action this week in the United States against Duncan Jepson, managing director of Liberty Shared.

“The purpose of the proceedings is to obtain important information pertaining to a complaint filed by Jepson with the Securities Commission of Malaysia,” Sime said.

The complaint had accused the company of wrongful disclosures in the 2019 report, it added.

Such information from the complaint was vitally important, Sime said, adding, “This is the first time in SDP’s 200-year history that we have resorted to taking legal action against an NGO.” (Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)