Lai See

HKICPA's disciplinary arrangements are a joke

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 1:33am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 1:33am

The long-running saga of Anthony Wu Ting-yuk and the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants' so-called "disciplinary" function is now moving into the realm of high farce.

It has been seven months since a disciplinary committee at the institute found Wu, a former chairman of the Hospital Authority, and two others guilty of professional misconduct. The other two are Ernst & Young, of which Wu was chairman until December 2005, and Catherine Yen Ka-shun, another senior figure at the accounting firm. The complaint relates to the collapse of an investment in New China Hong Kong Group in 1999. Wu was the financial adviser to the company and EY was the auditor.

Wu has served as the chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. He was a founder and director of the Bauhinia Foundation, a think tank that was close to former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. He was also a member of Henry Tang Ying-yen's election committee. In March last year, he was elected to the Standing Committee of the mainland's top political advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

So you could say he was well-connected. Some people say this is why the institute's disciplinary proceedings against him have taken so long, though Lai See has no evidence of this.

It took two years for the institute to decide if the complaints merited an investigation, and then almost 21/2 years to investigate the case before it was heard in May last year, making it the institute's longest-running case by far. It then took almost eight months for a report on the findings to be prepared. This was announced in December.

The disciplinary committee decided in March what punishment the trio should receive and it then remained for the chairman of the committee, Kumar Ramanathan, to write this up. We are told he is a busy Senior Counsel and that the work he does for the institute is free and he gets little, if any, secretarial support. However, we understand from people familiar with these matters that writing a report of this nature should take two to three days and at most a week.

It is clear that nobody is taking this issue seriously and that the institute's disciplinary proceedings are a joke. There is no question after this farce that it should lose its disciplinary function to the Financial Reporting Council or some other body.

The events that led to this complaint arose more than 13 years ago and Wu left the accounting profession shortly afterwards. In the meantime, he has been able to develop another career outside the profession in public administration.

We have no doubt that the sanctions imposed by the institute will be of little consequence to Wu.

Bring on the culture carriers

Being the dynamic industry that it is, investment banking is always changing. But it would appear the industry is entering a more intense period of change. You will not fit into the investment bank of the future if you cannot code or are doing a job that could be done by an algorithm, says the efinancialcareers website.

You will have to learn to build external relationships while playing internal politics. With promotions harder to come by, you will have to be more patient for success than in previous years. You will also be expected to be a "culture carrier" and cut out the trash chat. Maverick superstars will not be treated with the same reverence as previously. You will have to watch your step if you are doing a job that could just as easily be done in a "low-cost centre" by a low-cost person.


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