Netizens may rally against bailouts for investors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am

A group of netizens unhappy about attempts by investors in complex financial instruments issued by bankrupt US bank Lehman Brothers to get all their money back plan to stage a protest on Sunday.

At least two online discussion forums and seven Facebook groups, including one with more than 700 members, have rejected suggestions the government - and taxpayers - should be part of any bailout.

The government has ruled out offering any relief for investors, but some critics fear that investors will press the government to reverse its decision.

The online action follows demands by disgruntled investors who bought complex derivatives such as minibonds issued by Lehman Brothers that banks and the government compensate them for their losses. Some of those investors met DBS Bank representatives yesterday seeking a full refund.

Investors say banks misled them into believing such products are low-risk. In fact, they are high-risk, credit-linked derivatives.

But many who joined the online groups expressed no sympathy for minibond holders. Some said taxpayers, bank shareholders and employers would ultimately pay if the investors were given a full refund.

'All of the [minibond] protesters are so greedy that they coerce unreasonably the government and the banks into covering their loss which is due to their negligence and greediness. None of the HK taxpayers should bear their loss,' internet user Nigel Louie wrote in one Facebook group.

'They wouldn't pay part of their dividends to the government or their banks if the minibond value rises. [It's] totally nonsense!'

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah on Wednesday ruled out using public money to compensate the investors because 'taxpayers would not accept it'.

Some internet users called for supporters to gather outside the HSBC headquarters in Central on Sunday at 10am. These protesters said they would pass major bank outlets in Central's financial district before gathering at the government's head offices.

Police have not received an application to stage such a march.

The protesters said they would also challenge the lax supervision by authorities that they said indirectly caused the investors to lose billions.

'How come all the blame goes to the bankers? What about the SFC [Securities and Futures Commission] that approved the products,' read one Facebook group entry.

One internet user likened the situation to people 'being deceived by newspapers who recommended which football team or horse to bet on'.

Making a mockery of the victims, the user said: 'We should seek compensation from the newspapers if we lose in our bets.'

Another user, Jon Lee, said: 'You put all of your money on something that you have no idea of. And now you are saying others should take the responsibility? Are you sick?'

Lingnan University political analyst Li Pang-kwong said the government should quickly launch an investigation. 'It should take an active and positive step ... to find out the facts and evidence about who should bear the responsibility.

'Otherwise, people are just pointing to each another and provoking their emotions.'