Standard Chartered banned for market rigging: Hong Kong takes action after share float investigation. Peter Rodgers reports

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The Independent Online
STANDARD Chartered was yesterday banned from involvement in most Hong Kong flotations until next April after a market-rigging scandal that led to the resignation of Raymond Theodolou, chairman and chief executive of the bank's Far Eastern securities company.

Two other senior executives were also among those quitting, including Christopher Wigan of Standard Chartered Asia, the merchant bank.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission announced disciplinary action against Standard Chartered Securities and Standard Chartered Asia after investigating six share flotations between July 1991 and March 1993.

The commission found Standard helped the majority shareholders of the six companies buy shares during the flotation and in secondary market trading, to support the price.

In one case, three employees of Chung Tai Printing with average income under HKdollars 140,000 ( pounds 11,500) a year were lent money to buy HKdollars 17.4m of the company's shares on the first day of trading.

In the Chun Wo flotation, SCS helped a company owned by one of its sales directors to buy 7 million shares. The other flotations under scrutiny were Yanion International, Pam & Frank, Truly International and Hanwah Holdings.

Standard provided trading and credit facilities to shareholders or their nominees 'which it knew or ought to have known would be used to effect the support of the shares in question', said the SFC, which has been engaged in a widely publicised crackdown on market malpractice. A number of other firms are thought to be still under investigation.

The SFC said the securities firm had tolerated trading malpractice among its staff, given inaccurate information to the commission and 'false and misleading' information to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Standard Chartered Asia had sponsored and underwritten four of the flotations in question and certain of its former directors were - or should have been - aware of the securities firm's misconduct.

The Commission said Standard Chartered Securities would cease to be involved in initial public offerings or flotations until 1 April 1995. This meant it had agreed to refrain from underwriting, subunderwriting or sub-sub-underwriting, no matter which merchant banker sponsors the issue.

The firm will also be forbidden to subscribe to new issues for clients unless they have held accounts with it for at least four weeks. The commission has no powers to fine the bank in this case.

Separately, the commission suspended Sek Yiu Ning, a former Standard broker, for three months for 'rat-trading' - or making a profit by not getting the best price in the market for customers.

Malcolm Williamson, Standard Chartered group chief executive, said: 'The bank very much regrets these problems of the past . . . they occurred at a time when Standard Chartered was managed very differently from today.'

He said the bank had 'already improved the management control and compliance systems' in the two companies sanctioned.

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