It took many months to investigate investors' complaints and negotiate with banks before the city's financial and securities regulators announced they had brokered a deal for investors in Lehman Brothers minibonds to get some of their money back. That was in July, by which time the banks were more willing to settle because market rallies were pushing up the value of the collateral tied to the products. Well before then, however, they had compensated a small number of complainants, including the elderly, disadvantaged and victims of blatant mis-selling, often after representations by lawmakers. It has now emerged that the recipients of these early payouts included Lam Suk-jing, sister-in-law of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. In Lam's case, it is not suggested that anything other than this relationship sets her apart among the 43,000 investors who lost money on these minibonds. Three months before 16 banks offered most other investors compensation of 60 to 70 per cent of their investment, Lam accepted a bank's offer of 60 per cent. Put like that, it has understandably raised some eyebrows, especially among fellow investors who shared Lam's ordeal of anxiety about the fate of her savings, only for three months longer. The news has triggered claims of favouritism. However, lawmaker Abraham Razack, who helped Lam get compensation after she approached him for assistance, says his actions are being politicised and disclosure of them is malicious. He says he helped the couple (Lam and Tsang's brother Norman Tsang Yam-huen) in the same way he would have helped anyone else who asked for assistance. Lam had simply been willing to accept the first offer made by the bank, as he advised. Denying that there was any link between the compensation and family ties, Norman Tsang says his wife is 'just a housewife', and not a professional investor, who bought the minibonds at a bank counter in the hope of earning higher interest. The chief executive says he had been made aware that Lam and his brother had bought minibonds, but neither had asked him for help and he had not previously been aware of Razack's role. Put that way, there may be no reason for concerns of favouritism. But there remains a question of perception in the public mind - would any other investor have got the same treatment? The chief executive's sister-in-law was not only compensated earlier than most, but when markets were still depressed by the financial crisis and there was much uncertainty about the future. To many, 60 per cent in the hand then may have looked a lot better than it did a few months later. Any lingering doubts could be laid to rest by more transparency. What exactly did Razack - a lawmaker representing the real estate and construction sector - do in response to Lam's request for help? Did he make personal representations to an officer of the bank, or simply introduce her? How high at the bank did he go? Did he say he was representing the chief executive's sister-in-law? Which bank was involved, how much did she invest and how much did she get back? Was Razack able to achieve similar results for anyone else? These questions may seem intrusive, given that family links to powerful people are an accident of birth or marriage. But these connections bring with them a duty to ensure they are not seen to confer unfair advantage. This is important to maintaining public confidence in the institutions that mean so much to our way of life.