Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 1:22am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 1:22am

CLSA veteran Andy Rothman bids farewell to his employer

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.
 

Andy Rothman, CLSA's China macroeconomic strategist in Shanghai since 2000, is leaving the company. He is joining Matthews Asia in a newly created role at the firm's headquarters in San Francisco, according to a statement by the company. He'll be responsible for developing China-focused research on economic and political developments. Prior to CLSA, Rothman spent 17 years as a diplomat with the US Foreign Service, which included a period as head of the macroeconomic and domestic policy office of the US Embassy in Beijing. Matthews Asia is an independent, privately-owned asset manager with US$25.9 billion in assets under management as of the end of last year.

Some of Rothman's responsibilities at CLSA will be assumed by Francis Cheung, CLSA's head of China-HK strategy.

 

Seller beware

With all the hullabaloo surrounding the listing of the mainland's leading art auctioneer Poly Culture, one aspect of the company appears to have been swamped by the rush for its shares. We are referring to the "risk" factors and in particularly buyers' default risk. We are grateful to the online newsletter Week in China for drawing our attention to the section of the firm's prospectus which notes, "We generally collect auction receivables from the winning bidder after auction." Readers may be surprised to learn that this is by no means a routine practice. The prospectus concedes that the firm's "business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected" if buyers don't pay up. There is a bigger default risk for Poly if it delivers auctioned artworks to buyers with a good credit record "and/or long-term relationship with us", and they don't pay.

Poly says the accumulated settlement rate for its art auction sales for 2010, 2011, 2012 and the first ten months of 2013 were respectively 74 per cent, 56 per cent, 56 per cent and 53 per cent. These percentages were derived by dividing the amounts buyers have paid by the "hammer prices" reached at auction. Alarmingly the actual amount taken in recent years was almost half the price reached in the auction. Why is this such a problem in China? Money transfer problems are sometimes cited, or the art work is alleged to be fake. On one occasion a buyer cited patriotism as a reason for not paying. In 2009 Christie's sold two bronze sculptures to a local art dealer who, after the auction, refused to pay. His reasoning was that the sculptures had been looted from Beijing's Summer Palace during the Second Opium War, and he wanted to disrupt the sale.

 

Too transparent

The Vietnamese government has been pushing e-bidding for government tenders, because it thinks it will save billions of dollars a year. But state-owned enterprises involved in the government pilot project have been dragging their feet and have generally been unwilling to use the mechanism. Le Van Tang, Head of the Bidding Management Agency, (BMA) an arm of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, admitted there were some drawbacks to the process. But he said the main reason for the reluctance of SOEs to engage in e-bidding was that it was too transparent and, "helps to reduce wrongdoings," he said. The BMA believes that e-bidding saves around 10 per cent per procurement contract, which amounts to billions of dollars a year.

 

Whistling all the way to the bank

US regulators have paid US$63.9 million to a whistle-blower who helped the US government make its case against JP Morgan over its lending practices. Last month the bank agreed, according to The New York Times, to pay US$614 million to settle charges that it violated rules at the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which insure mortgages made by lenders. Keith Edwards, who worked for the bank between 2003-2008, sued the bank last year under the False Claims Act, which aims to encourage whistle-blowers by promising to pay them a percentage of the money the government gets.

The highest amount received by a whistle-blower was the US$104 million received by a UBS banker from the US Internal Revenue Service for providing information on how the bank helped American citizens evade US taxes.

 

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

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