Goldman Sachs

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am


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Engaging couple conquer the tyranny of distance

We are pleased to hear the chief executive and director-general designate of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has got engaged. Why do we care?

Well the lucky man is Tony Tyler (pictured), who until March was CEO of Cathay Pacific.

The bride is Charlotte Andsager who, according to reports, is Danish, charming, beautiful and blond. She is about 38, while Tyler is a youthful-looking 56. Andsager is the vice-president for European Affairs at Rolls-Royce.

We understand they have been an item for some years. Tyler, with a fine sense of timing, announced the news to his friends by e-mail on the day of the recent royal wedding.

The couple is planning to marry sometime next year. However, as things stand, Andsager will be based in Brussels and Tyler in Geneva, about 500 kilometres apart, but an improvement on the 9,300 kilometres that separate Europe and Hong Kong.

Blurred vision

Readers may be interested to know that this year is the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department, so its website proudly tells us. It's so pleased with itself that it is holding a series of commemorative programmes and events. These include student design contests, open days to celebrate how Hong Kong deals with its waste, a roving environmental exhibition and so on. If this seems like small beer, it is, because the EPD has little to celebrate or feel proud about.

Over the weekend it suffered the embarrassment of being pinged by the ombudsman for dragging its feet over setting new air-quality objectives. Although it is well established that Hong Kong has high levels of roadside pollution that endangers people's health, the EPD has sat on its hands for three years over upgrading Hong Kong's outdated air-quality objectives.

The idea of air quality objectives is to set targets at which health risks are significantly reduced. To make things easy for everyone, the World Health Organisation has a set of guidelines that have been adopted by many countries. It takes less than 30 seconds to download them from the WHO's website, which makes you wonder why the EPD has done nothing for three years.

The EPD website states: 'Our vision is of a Hong Kong - which enjoys an environment that is both healthy and pleasant....' while adding: 'Our Mission is to contribute towards realising this mission by applying our professional knowledge and judgment and drawing on international experience....'

The EPD has clearly failed in both its mission and vision. It has been a drag on the movement towards cleaning the air. While the EDP has dawdled, people's lives are being shortened by the polluted air.

Enough shame to go round

We were amused to see that UBS did not mince its words in noting in a report on Goldman Sachs that 'GS's management team is very strong; however, mis-steps on the public relations front have further tarnished the firm's reputation.' The Evening Standard remarked in its piece that it was the pot calling the kettle black. But that seems a little harsh on UBS.

True, some of their boys were a bit naughty in smuggling client's diamonds across national borders in tubes of toothpaste and helping US citizens to evade taxes. But Goldman's is hard to beat for that egregious deal in 2007 in which it created and sold CDOs linked to subprime mortgages to one client without disclosing that hedge fund Paulson & Co helped pick the underlying securities and bet against the vehicle. Meanwhile, Goldman told the client the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party.

Breeding cynicism

We were interested to receive an e-mail from Max Hilton at Peregrine Communications (no relation to the Peregrine that blew up in 1998) purportedly introducing us to 'a new breed of asset manager'.

'Generation Asset Management ('G2AM'), a joint venture between Generation Group, a Geneva-based merchant banking firm, and Canada's largest FoHF, Arrow Capital Management, believes it is time for the creation of a new type of asset manager, one who keep charges low and alpha high - while, most importantly, not falling foul of industry 'bad habits''.

The blurb goes on to stress the new levels of transparency the fund will adopt. 'G2AM will offer full transparency to clients and full accountability.'

This is presumably why its head office will be in Guernsey, while its operations are in London and Geneva. The 'new breed of asset manager's' transparency evidently does not exclude the 'old breed of asset manager's' love (and need) of tax avoidance arrangements.