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  • Jul 22, 2014
  • Updated: 6:07pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 December, 2012, 3:23am

The Prosecutions division is not rotten, says DPP

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Readers may recall we recently wrote about the Prosecutions Department in a piece headed "Something's Rotten in the Prosecution's Department", in which we fretted over the numbers leaving the department and the implications for succession. The director of public prosecutions, Kevin Zervos, takes issue with this assessment of the department and says that nothing could be further from the truth. He says that in 2011 it is true that a number of people left but they were at or near retirement age.

These included Peter Chapman, Arthur Luk, Patrick Cheung, Ian McWalters, Mary Sin, Robert Lee, Thomas Law and Evena Chan. But he goes on to say that, "this was a concern we had to address in 2011 and we did so by recruiting talented young lawyers and implementing a training programme with emphasis on advocacy skills. I was making the point that whilst we are an office of young lawyers they are nevertheless doing an excellent job who have the qualities of being both highly professional and civic minded. The truth is that counsel of the Division are regarded as conscientious lawyers who are doing an excellent job".

He added that our piece had upset a number of counsel, "who are proud to be prosecutors performing an important public duty. I can vouch for their dedication and hard work. They work nights and weekends ensuring that cases are prepared and conducted properly and justice is delivered. Our criminal justice system is in good shape and to a large extent due to their tireless efforts". We may have been somewhat over the top in the tone of our earlier comments but the various people we had spoken to had expressed some disquiet over the situation at the prosecutions division.

 

Citi v HSBC

What to make of Citibank's decision to cut six out of its 46 branches in Hong Kong as part of the massive 11,000 cuts it is planning. CLSA's Mike Mayo, Citi's harshest critic in the past, described the move as a "tremor" adding an "earthquake" is coming, likely ahead of the bank's April 16 annual meeting. This will surely have put a bit of a dampener on Citi's ambitions to chase after HSBC's lead in Hong Kong.

 

Comply or leave

The reach of US regulatory authorities across the world in matters such as taxation and Sarbanes-Oxley often seems irksome. But it seems hard to fault them in the present dust up over the issue of the mainland affiliates of the Big Four accounting firms which are refusing to provide audit work papers to the US authorities. If a company is listed on a US stock exchange it is required under the terms of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to use an auditor registered with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. However, since 2009 the mainland has prohibited the locally based auditing firms, which audit the US-listed mainland firms, from sharing accounting papers with foreign regulators.

The reason for this, it appears, is that sharing such information would be in violation of their own laws involving state secrets. So the mainland is quite happy for its companies to list on US stock markets and to reap the benefit from that exercise while at the same time it is reluctant for them to fulfil one of the conditions of listing in the US. The US should say: "If you can't comply, off you go." There will undoubtedly be a price to pay since the top 20 mainland ADRs on US markets have a market capitalisation of US$951 billion, while mainland companies listed in the US have a market capitalisation of US$101 billion. There may well be secrets in the accounts of those companies but state secrets?

 

Top people's reading

It is not uncommon at this time of year and before the summer break for news organisations to ask leading figures what books they are reading. Bloomberg has asked various luminaries what they will be reading. Most chose new titles, while others returned to classics with modern-day relevance. The most popular picks were Robert A. Caro's The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, William L. Silber's Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson's Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty and The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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