Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2011, 12:00am


Real Gold and the case that fails to shine

Real Gold Mining, readers may recall, is the mainland company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange that has been languishing in suspension since May this year while irregularities surrounding its accounts are investigated.

Last month, its auditor Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu quit because the miner had failed, in the words of the company, to disclose information that was 'highly material' to its 2010 financial statements. Among the issues are why it seems to have filed two sets of accounts with the authorities on the mainland and in Hong Kong, and why shareholders were not told about a HK$1.5 billion loan to the founder.

It has also had a problem keeping independent non-executive directors and fell below the required number of three. An announcement the other day appears to have remedied this with the appointment of Li Xiaoping. He is a partner with Shan Dong Zhong Rui China certified public accountants and a graduate of Ocean University of China. Last year, according to a HKEx announcement, he was 'awarded' a doctorate degree in business administration from InterAmerican University (IAU).

According to the university's website, it is accredited by the International Association of Universities and Schools, which IAU happily admits is 'a private accrediting association, not affiliated with any government agency, which is designed to meet the needs of non-traditional education worldwide.' It appears on a number of lists of fraudulent or unrecognised accrediting organisations. So Li's Phd doesn't seem to be quite real gold, so to speak.

A matter of convenience

Former Singaporean foreign minister George Yeo Yong Boon was waxing lyrical at the World Toilet Summit in Hainan which opened yesterday. Coming from the country where not flushing the toilet can get you a fine, it was appropriate that he should give the opening address. Toilets, he felt, were important for good health and were particularly important for women.

'In my view reasonable access to decent toilets should be an integral aspect of women's rights.' Men, it seems, have no need for such 'rights'. He spoke of the 'market failure' in the provision of toilets. 'On the one hand the demand is large. But, on the other, the supply is missing.'

Yeo observed Deng Xiaoping set a goal of achieving a modest living standard for the Chinese people by 2020. 'Without adequate toilets this cannot be achieved,' according to Yeo. He ended by saying: 'China's remarkable achievements in all fields, including the improvement of public toilets, will be an inspiration to the rest of the developing world.' It's hard to believe Yeo was being serious. He seems, as they say, to have been taking the p***.

Bank fighter tells his story

Mike Mayo, CLSA's chief United States banking analyst has written a fine book, Exile on Wall Street - One Analyst's Fight To Save The Big Banks From Themselves.

It's a compelling story enlivened by Mayo's industry insights with a big section on his well-documented run-in with Citi, for what he considers its poor banking practice and most of all for refusing to see him. But this is not just a book about the financial crisis. Mayo casts himself as an outsider and has been treated as one, having been squeezed out from a number of investment banks he has worked with, fearful at losing money as a result of his calls.

He initially struggled to get a job in Wall Street since he didn't go to the right universities. Mayo is on a crusade, driven by a sense of outrage that America and its free-wheeling capitalist system is being destroyed by the greed of those at the top of the finance industry.

Some of Mayo's relatives literally killed to get into America to live the American dream and Mayo sees this is in danger of being destroyed. He writes with palpable disgust at the eight-figure salaries bank executives get after poor performances.

Speaking on a conference call yesterday, he said the Occupy Wall Street protesters posed less danger to the US capitalist system than the chief executives of American banks.

The solutions to the problems of the US banking system, he believes, are more transparency, an end to excessive pay for poor performance, and critically, shareholders must act and force companies to operate more transparently and be accountable for their actions.

He says that despite the horrors of the last financial crisis, banks haven't changed.

But Mayo has got the chief executives of the Fortune 500 in his sights. He does not have a small ego and that's very evident in this book. That aside, the net benefit is overwhelming.