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40 Lehman Cases Referred To Hong Kong SFC

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

24 October 2008

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) on Friday referred to the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) for further action another 40 cases involving complaints of two licensed banks' alleged misconduct concerning Lehman Brothers investment products.

The HKMA revealed that one of the banks has been subject to referral in the first batch of 24 cases on October 17.

The authority said in light of the large number of complaints, it will streamline the investigation process by identifying groups of cases with common features which appear to justify referral to the Commission in batches, adding that it will cooperate with the Commission in conducting further investigations to speed up the process.

Sanctions the Commission may impose on a bank include suspension or revocation of registration, reprimands, fines or prohibition orders.

Up to October 23, the authority had received 16,301 complaints concerning Lehman Brothers-related products. Besides the 64 referrals, it has started investigations into 285 cases and is seeking further information on 1,942 complaints. Another 28 complaints did not have sufficient prima facie evidence.

On Thursday, the SFC asked banks and brokerages to help accelerate the investigation process into alleged mis-selling of Lehman Brothers-related products.

At a wealth management conference, the SFC's Executive Director of Enforcement Mark Steward said that intermediaries should undertake their own internal inquiries into their selling practices, and engage external consultants to conduct a review if necessary, instead of waiting for the completion of the Commission's investigations.

"This approach is in the best interests of both the investors and the banks and brokerages," he said, noting that it will help speed up a resolution of regulatory issues, reduce overall costs and expenses and the risk of many separate and competing legal claims.

Mr Steward stressed that a top-down approach will be taken to probe the selling practices and policies of each bank and brokerage instead of investigating each complaint individually, so the Commission can respond quickly to the maximum number of complaints in the shortest possible time.

"No outcome will be pre-judged, and our conclusions will be based on evidence, not on supposition, speculation or any external pressure for a particular desired result," he said.

Mr Steward urged those banks and brokerages setting out to offer compensation to ensure the population of the affected clients is clearly defined, their identification is sound and covers the field of potential liability, and that the compensation is fair and reasonable.

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