If the clients of the collapsed CA Pacific Securities Company had any sympathy from the public, they may have lost it all last week when a few dozen of them stormed the stock exchange. No one believed the angry action was warranted. The protesters did not even have the support of any political party. Most people failed to understand the purpose of their action. The Government had already promised to give them compensation. What else did they want? The decision to open the stock exchange compensation fund to meet the claims of CA Pacific investors was announced shortly before the Lunar New Year. The news was welcomed by most of the investors, who believed they would now be able to retrieve their assets without having to wait for the liquidation of the collapsed company. But the euphoria was short-lived. Soon the investors learned there was a limit to the compensation they would receive, regardless of how much they were owed by CA Pacific. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) hinted the cap would be about $200,000, though many clients had deposited shares in CA Pacific worth more than $1 million even when the Hang Seng Index was at its lowest. There was another catch to the compensation scheme. Any investor who had been involved in margin transactions would lose the right to claim. This criterion is not as clear-cut as it may seem. For convenience in transactions, it is a common practice for securities companies to advise their clients to open a margin account in their associated finance company, even if the clients have no interest in margin trading. Most of the CA Pacific clients had a margin account for this reason, and many had unintentionally borrowed from CA Pacific Finance in the course of their transactions. Immediately after the Lunar New Year holiday, representatives of the investors went to the SFC office to seek clarification on these matters. They were told the SFC had to estimate the total amount that would be claimed before the compensation scheme could be formulated. The estimate depended on information about CA Pacific customers that had to be gathered and supplied by the provisional liquidators of the company. SFC chairman Anthony Neoh reckoned details of the compensation scheme would come out by the middle of February, after which investors would have three months to register their claim. Hopefully the first batch of payments would be made in June, the representatives were told. That promise was made more than a month ago. Somehow the provisional liquidators' work has turned out to be much more complicated than expected, and the information necessary for drawing up the terms of compensation will not be ready for some time. Meanwhile, it has come to be known that most of the shares in the CA Pacific cash accounts, and a substantial amount of those in the finance accounts as well, are safely deposited with the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company. The investors' ownership of these shares should not be affected by the liquidation of CA Pacific. The liquidators owe the investors a duty to return them their assets as soon as possible, so they can deal with their shares in the way they may want to. But up to now the CA Pacific victims have no idea when they will be able to regain possession of their shares that have been frozen through no fault of their own. The authorities tell them to wait with patience, but patience will not help protect their interests if they can do nothing as they watch the value of their shares fluctuate.