Stocks-probe timing 'to lessen impact'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 12:00am

Investors have accused the government of trying to hide a report into the penny-stocks crisis by releasing its findings on the eve of the September 11 anniversary of the terror attacks on the United States.

Panic selling of low-cost stocks rocked the market on July 26 after the stock exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission floated a proposal to delist shares priced below 50 cents for 30 consecutive days. More than 220 stocks plunged by 20 to 90 per cent and the market lost $10 billion in valuation. The delisting plan was later deferred.

Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung has ordered a two-man panel to investigate who, if anybody, should be held responsible for the chaos.

The panel - former stock exchange council member Gordon Kwong Chi-keung and barrister Robert Kotewall - is to submit its findings on September 10.

Investor Pauline Chiu Yuen-yee, who lost $500,000 in the crash, said she found it puzzling that Mr Leung had set that day for release of the findings.

'There is a good chance that they ordered the report findings to be published on that day in the hope that the public would take little notice of it because of what will be going on in the US,' she said.

Another penny-stock investor, Amy Cheung Ka-yu, was equally unimpressed with the timing.

'It is trying to let the whole thing fade from memory and deploy delaying tactics. Basically, it hopes to free itself and those involved of any responsibilities,' she said.

Mr Leung's office said there was nothing special about the timing of the report's submission, as it was the panel which decided how much time was needed to gather information and write up findings.

'It is just a coincidence,' a spokesman said.