Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2012, 12:00am


Cantor Fitzgerald can't talk tough with its mouth full of humble pie

Earlier this month there were joyful scenes at Harlan Goldstein's Gold restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong as four senior executives with Reorient Financial Markets along with colleagues and clients celebrated a High Court victory over Cantor Fitzgerald. Cantor had failed in its efforts in the High Court to win damages from four senior executives who left the New York-based firm to join Reorient.

Cantor had sued for HK$8.7 million in damages from former Cantor Hong Kong chief Jason Boyer; Bradford Ainslie and Brett McGonegal, formerly of Cantor's Asian cash equities desk; and Uwe Parpart, its former Asia economist. The four were accused of breaching their employments contracts and causing a 29 per cent drop in Cantor's average monthly revenues. All four told the court in a trial last month that they left Cantor independently.

Cantor has a reputation for tenaciousness when it comes to legal matters and it yesterday served notice of its intention to appeal the verdict. The trial last month heard that Cantor chief executive Howard Lutnick was heard saying in a conference call: 'I hope Jason Boyer has saved all the money he made here because he'll need it for his lawyers for years to come.' High Court Judge A.T. Reyes ordered the four to pay various sums in lieu of notice, but Cantor was ordered to pay most of the four's legal costs. Judge Reyes said in his verdict: 'There is not a shred of evidence suggesting that, whether individually or collectively, they had any intention to injure Cantor Hong Kong.'

The judgment caused a stir in Hong Kong for the implications it carried for employment law. It overturned HSBC Bank Plc v Wallace (2008), which until now has been the standard position on these matters and interestingly was successfully argued by HSBC's barrister Adrian Huggins. He subsequently had the opportunity to argue the opposite side of the case when he represented the four Reorient executives in their dispute with Cantor. The outcome of the appeal will be watched with interest.

Economist is frank on rivalry

Renowned mainland economist Wu Jinglian was interviewed by the South China Morning Post recently. He was asked that old chestnut about whether Shanghai would surpass Hong Kong as an international financial centre. Instead of coming out with the usual guff about them complementing each other rather than being rivals, the 82-year old was surprisingly forthright: 'I've been on the board in both mainland-listed and red-chip companies. The two are very different in corporate culture. For example, in mainland, companies, when we have meetings and ask if we can proceed with an agenda, the lawyers will say 'No problem. So and so from the CSRC has already said no problem.' But in red chip companies, the lawyers will say 'No, we can't because the law says so and so. I have a legal issue I still have questions about it, I need to go back and check and see what is legal and what is illegal.' The two cultures are completely different.' Thus speaks Wu Jinglian.

Idle enforcers of engine law

Predictably, enforcement of the idling-engines law is proving to be farcical. It has come to our ears that security trucks belonging to Guardforce and G4S are in the habit of lurking on Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan , from its junction with Shau Kei Wan Main Street East to the traffic lights some 200 metres down the road underneath the flyover. This is an area with a number of schools. The drivers sit around eating, sleeping chatting meanwhile, keeping their engines running. So a complaint was made by Clear the Air chairman James Middleton to the Environmental Protection Department, which is supposed to enforce the new law.

Back came a letter from the EPD to say it had had indeed found trucks with idling engines at this location. 'Our observation was that they were providing armoured transportation services,' writes Ray Leung of the EPD, adding that they were therefore exempt under the law. It is hard to see what armoured protection services they were providing parked under a flyover.

Middleton's response to the EPD: 'Your response is not acceptable and is a dereliction of duty. They are most certainly not actively 'engaged in armoured transportation services...they are having lunch, reading newspaper and sleeping. Therefore the exemption does not apply during these activities.'

Our reporter tells us that as a result of the EPD's enquiries, security vehicles no longer congregate at this location. They have moved and now gather around the Factory Street playground spewing their emissions. Yet another success story for Edward Yau Tang-wah, secretary for the ernvironment.