Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2011, 12:00am

Number crunchers get down to some serious fun for charity

Good to see Hong Kong's Association of Chartered Certified Accountants taking a break from juggling accounts.

The association celebrated its 60th anniversary with a fun day that raised over HK$1 million which will go to the charities Harmony House, Hong Kong PHAB Association and Kely Support Group.

The annual fun day has raised over HK$9 million since it started in 1997. That is, if they've done their sums correctly.

Democracy on the line

Flushed with the success of its debate last year, 'The internet is making us stupid,' the organisers, intelligence squared, has come up with another topic to tickle the intellect: 'The world needs less democracy, not more.'

Speaking for the motion are Humphrey Hawksley, BBC foreign correspondent and author of Democracy Kills. What's So Good About Having The Vote?, and Professor Pan Wei, of the Centre for Chinese and Global Affairs, Peking University.

Against the motion are David Aaronovitch, broadcaster and award-winning columnist with The Times of London, and Karim Raslan, political commentator and author of Malaysia in Transition.

The debate takes place in the Convention and Exhibition Centre on February 9.

Legal affairs

The unsettled Hong Kong team of the British law firm Hammonds has opted to join SNR Denton. The move is the latest in a series surrounding the two firms in recent months.

In November, Hammonds and US firm Squire Sanders announced they were merging. But just a few weeks later the Hammonds Hong Kong office said: 'Oh no we're not.'

The office includes the six partners: dispute resolution partner Keith Brandt, M&A partner Valda Chan, private equity partner Jeffrey Cheung, capital markets partner Julianne Doe, and maritime, insurance, and litigation partner Mary Thomson, along with about 20 staff members.

The group is operating under the name of Brandt Chan & Partners until it receives the necessary regulatory approval. SNR Denton has also undergone recent changes with its merger of US firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Denton Wilde Sapte of Britain.

It's all part of the fun of globalisation.

Going by the book

Here's some cheery reading: How the West was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly - And the Stark Choices Ahead was published in Britain in January 2011. The author, Dambisa Moyo, suggests that the West is virtually bound to be eclipsed by China.

It raises the idea of protectionism and default as a way of fighting back. Yes, well protectionism served us awfully well in the 1930s - maybe we could close our capital account as well.

Let's hope this book is as prescient as The Japan That Can Say No, by Shintaro Ishihara, the then Minister of Transport and leading LDP figure and current governor of Tokyo; and Sony co-founder and chairman Akio Morita.

This little gem criticised the US and compared it unfavourably to Japan. Since then of course, Japan's banking sector has almost collapsed, it's suffered a 'lost decade', it's been eclipsed by China as the world's second-biggest economy and its property bubble is in a 20-year slump.

God's work

In an effort to add some lustre to its somewhat tarnished image, Goldman Sachs recently asked consultants to survey 200 of its clients around the world about what it thought of the firm.

Unfortunately we don't get to see what the clients actually said, but Goldman's own summary suggests they were somewhat underwhelmed.

'Clients raised concerns about whether the firm has remained true to its traditional values and business principles given changes to the firm's size, business mix and perceptions about the role of proprietary trading.'

(Translation: Don't bet against the stuff you have sold us).

'Clients said that, in some circumstances, the firm weighs its interests and short-term incentives too heavily.'

(Translation: Am I a client or a means to improving your bonus?).

'Clients also said they would like us to communicate more clearly about our roles and responsibilities in particular transactions.'

(Translation: At least tell me if you're going to bet against the stuff you're trying to sell me).

Interestingly, the report has lengthy sections on conflicts of interest, structured products and transparency and disclosure - all of which have been problem areas for the company recently.