9 Jan 2009
Enoch Yiu, Maria Chan and Paggie Leung
Legislators and brokers are disappointed with regulators’ reports into the lessons learned from the Lehman Brothers minibond scandal.
The reports by the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority carry recommendations including having a cooling-off period in which investors can cancel their investments, and tightening banks’ techniques in selling investment products.
The HKMA also recommends it exclusively regulate banks’ securities business, a role it shares with the SFC.
Kenny Lee Yiu-sun, the chairman of the Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association, said there was a danger the cooling-off measure could be abused. He said some people who lost money because of market movements instead of mis-selling might take advantage of such measures.
“There should be some preventive measures if the recommendation is implemented,” Mr Lee said. He disagreed with giving the HKMA the sole role of regulating banks selling securities products.
Lawmaker Kam Nai-wai, who has actively helped Lehman minibond investors fight to get their money back, expressed dismay at the report: “It does not include any help to existing victims, as there are no measures addressing their concerns.”
However, Mr Kam supported recommendations including establishing a financial services ombudsman and not allowing banks to sell investment products over deposit counters.
Peter Chan Kwong-yue, the chairman of the Allied Victims of Lehman Products, said the reports failed to solve the key problems.
“They are just speaking after the fact,” Mr Chan said. “Someone gets shot by an arrow and [the HKMA and SFC] are not going to save the injured but ask where the arrow came from to avoid getting shot in the future. It’s nonsense to talk about this now.”
Asked about the plan to give the HKMA more authority to regulate banks, Mr Chan said it could help prevent incidents similar to the “misselling” of Lehman minibonds.
A senior banker said it would be clearer if the HKMA took on the role of regulating banks’ non-banking business, but it would be difficult to implement the cooling-off period.
Billy Mak Sui-choi, an associate professor in the department of finance at the Hong Kong Baptist University, agreed the HKMA taking on a sole role was one way to improve the current two-regulator model.
“Regulators who are responsible for the supervision will have to bear all the responsibility, and they can’t blame the other.” Mr Mak said a cooling-off period would allow customers who buy products impulsively to reconsider their decision, helping minimise future disputes.
A spokesman said the SFC would work with the government and HKMA to improve the regulatory structure and investor protection.
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