Once again we have had a fine example of that entrenched practice in our government of passing the buck. The way it is done never changes much. You start with some news that a senior Government official finds embarrassing or reprehensible. He then commands his underlings to get the evidence on the culprit and punish him. The underlings investigate and soon discover that the obvious culprit was actually the captive of a train of events beyond his control and not really to blame. They also soon realise that the senior government official was himself partially responsible by adopting policies that set this train of events in motion. But this will not do. They cannot come back with a report that blames him, not if they value their chances of promotion and what civil servant does not? To make their boss lose face this way is out of the question. So they hunt for a convenient culprit, preferably one who is not influential enough to bite back. If their original culprit fits the bill they choose him, particularly if they can pin some smaller sin on him to shut him up in case he were thinking of making loud complaints about unfair blame on the bigger sin. A public statement is then made, one that waves an admonishing finger at the chosen culprit, telling something along the lines of 'tut, tut, you bad boy, don't do it again'. And then the matter is dropped aside from pledges to adopt new rules that will stop this sort of thing in the future. No further action is taken against the culprit. That would be truly unfair and everyone knows it. He played his role, he took the blame for someone else and, if he keeps his mouth shut, he is a good boy again. Now look at how things worked out with the declaration to Legco by Securities and Futures Commission chairman Andrew Sheng that BNP Prime Peregrine failed to take reasonable steps to prevent unruly scenes among the punters who crowded up last month to apply for shares of Tom.gem. Any senior government official who happened to be passing through Central that Wednesday may justifiably have come to the conclusion that this sort of thing does not give Hong Kong a good name and may be excused for telling his underlings to find the culprit. But the real reason it happened is that Internet stocks are an overheated sector of markets around the world just now, and we in Hong Kong have poured fuel on this fire by setting up a trivial pursuits corner of the stock exchange that passes out easy waivers to its own already lax listing requirements. Tom got more than any other. However, can you imagine the underlings coming back to Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to say: 'Well, sir, ahem . . . you know really if you hadn't let the stock exchange be run by a set of stock promoters rather than regulators it might never have happened'. Fat chance. Therefore we had a quick search for a convenient culprit. An obvious one would have been HSBC Holdings, the receiving bank for the issue and the one at whose offices these crowd scenes took place. But HSBC is influential. It can bite back. Better in that case to look for a smaller culprit, and who better fits the bill than the sponsor for the issue, BNP Prime Peregrine? What is more, BNP Prime Peregrine can be pinned for a smaller sin to shut it up. Its settlement system was not up to the demand (what stockbroker's could have been?) and it made some improper transfers. There, that should do. It does indeed. BNP Prime Peregrine, which had earlier pointed out that it did warn others concerned about indications of huge demand now says only that it is 'ultimately disappointed'. Finally, Mr Sheng makes the obligatory pledges that changes in the rules will be considered and properly takes BNP Prime Peregrine off the hook by saying there are no provisions for sanctions under the existing rules. The story never changes.