Lai See

Wu case drags on and on

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 1:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 1:37am

Those expecting the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants' case against former Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk and two other defendants, to be concluded by mid-February appear to have been overly optimistic.

Readers will recall that the HKICPA announced on the evening of December 24 last year that Wu, together with EY, and Catherine Yen Ka-shun, a senior figure at EY, were guilty of professional misconduct. These findings related to the collapse of the New China Hong Kong Group in 1999, owing creditors some HK$1.5 billion. The sanctions for offences are generally announced a month or so after the disciplinary tribunal's findings. But like everything in this case, this part of the process is likely to be protracted.

So far submissions have been received from all parties as to what the sanctions should be. But it transpires there are several more stages to go through before sanctions can be announced. It is likely to be months rather than weeks before this case is brought to a close. It took two years for HKICPA to decide if the complaints merited an investigation, and then almost two and a half years to investigate the case before it was heard in May 2013, and then a further eight months for a report on the findings to be prepared.


Fine words from Labour Dept but what about some action?

The architectural firm RMJM was yesterday fined a total of HK$53,200 for non-payment of wages. Readers may recall that we have written extensively about this company that used to be one of the world's largest architectural firms with 1,200 employees worldwide until falling on hard times in recent years with numerous reports of unpaid salaries from its offices all over the world. Last week a group of 25 former employees owed a total of HK$3 million in unpaid wages gained the support of legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who said he would exert pressure on the Labour Department on their behalf. RMJM was fined yesterday because it failed to pay wages to five employees within seven days after the expiry of the wage period, as required by the Employment Ordinance.

The department said in a statement that RMJM had been convicted four times for offences relating to wage payment and defaulting on payment of Labour Tribunal awards from July 2011 to May 2013. RMJM was fined a total of HK$68,000 for these offences, which including yesterday's fine totals HK$121,200. One does not have to be a genius to see that it is a lot cheaper for the firm to pay these court fines than pay the former employees what they are owed.

A spokesman for the Labour Department said: "The department will not tolerate wage offences and will spare no effort in bringing to justice employers who defy the law. Prosecution will also be taken out on company directors if there is sufficient evidence that any wage offence is committed with their consent, connivance or negligence."

These are fine sounding words but RMJM has been breaking the law on payment of salaries for more than two years and so far no prosecution has been brought against individual directors. Does the Labour Department really think that directors have been unaware or have not been complicit in the non-payment of wages? A department spokesperson told Lai See that if there was evidence, there would be prosecutions, but she declined to say if the Labour Department was actively preparing to prosecute directors.


Clients like their banks shock

Small wonder that investment banks have changed little since the onset of the financial crisis. Some 96 per cent of investment bank clients in the US and Britain are generally satisfied and would recommend their banks to others, according to a recent survey by Accenture. "Investment bank clients have remained loyal to their primary banks since the financial crisis," said Dean Jayson, research author and managing director of Accenture's Capital Markets Industry Practice for Europe, Africa and Latin America. "But our research shows they are shifting their focus back to basics - looking for simple products and trading services, and increasingly demanding higher quality service and lower fees."

But clients said they would be willing to switch if other banks were able to offer better risk management and trading services, even if they had to pay more.


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