THE Securities and Futures Commission has called for a law which would protect auditors and investors by encouraging accountants to place public interest before confidentiality. The move has been welcomed by corruption-prevention officers and accountants. They said malpractice and bribery were widespread, but accountants were often ''unsure whether to tell or not to tell'' because of grey areas between confidentiality and anti-bribery laws. Mr Ermanno Pascutto, executive director in charge of corporate finance with the SFC, said the commission had submitted a report to the Financial Services Branch recommending a law which would protect auditors of listed companies from being sued for breaching client confidentiality if they provided information in the public interest. It also would help protect business people and investors who relied on accurate financial statements. The proposal was in line with moves in the United Kingdom and was ''a logical extension'' of statutory provisions which protected auditors who reported reasonable suspicion of fraud to the Banking Commission and the SFC. Both the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Hongkong Society of Accountants said few complaints were lodged by certified practising or commercial accountants, even though every one of them encountered corruption, such as gifts to influenceselection. ICAC director of corruption prevention Tony Scott said some laws demanded compulsory disclosure to the ICAC and the Inland Revenue Department, and regulatory agencies such as the Banking Commission could be given information without clients' consent. However, accountants were bound by confidentiality and the courts had never defined ''public interest''. This made it ''difficult to decide where the duty of confidentiality ceases, and public interest begins''. An accountants' society representative said that at present, accountants tended to phone for advice and were told to seek management help and ''as a last resort, resign from the job to protect their professional standards''.