Thursday, November 26, 2015   

'Distressed' Ma bows to calls for apology

Staff reporters

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Frederick Ma bowed low yesterday as he publicly admitted

guilt in the penny stocks fiasco, a day after refusing to apologise

when his name appeared in a damning government report.

The Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury appeared at what

looked like a hastily arranged media briefing at government

headquarters just 90 minutes after the typhoon signal No 8 was


"Since the penny stocks matter happened, I have been very distressed

and self-critical. As I said in [Tuesday's] press conference, I truly

accept, and I say it again, I truly accept, criticisms in the report


and from the public."

The report said Ma's "lack of close geographical connection" with

his staff helped prevent him seeing the Securities and Futures

Commission summary of the proposed mechanism to delist low-performance

stocks before the proposals were made public in July.

The report also said his performance under questioning by legislators

was "sub-par".

"Although the report did not say I was negligent, the unfortunate

matter did happen under my jurisdiction. As well as this, my

performance at the Legislative Council was not good and I know that

many investors were affected, stirring up echoes and concerns in the

society. I therefore feel like expressing my deep regret," Ma said

yesterday. "I also want to officially and sincerely apologise to the

public," he said, bowing low.

"I want to reiterate to the people that I will learn a lesson from

what happened and that I will do my job better in future."

Ma, who according to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa on Tuesday had

promised to be more humble in future, left without answering any


The report by lawyer Robert Kotewall and company director Gordon

Kwong, released on Tuesday, found individual errors by key figures

involved including Ma, Financial Secretary Antony Leung, Securities

and Futures Commission chairman Andrew Sheng and Hong Exchanges and

Clearing chief executive Kwong Ki-chi. But it held no one specifically

to blame for the fiasco, in which investors, spooked by the delisting

proposals, dumped penny stocks in a sell-off that wiped HK$10.91

billion off Hong Kong shares on July 26.

Kwong, the only other central figure to comment yesterday, ducked

questions on whether he should be held responsible.

Speaking after an HKEx board meeting to discuss the inquiry report, he

said only: "Justice will prevail in the hearts of the people."

He said the board had accepted the report's recommendations in

principle, "but we have to consult all the board members and the

listing committee before implementation".

The probe found Kwong, the chief at the lowest level of the

three-tiered regulatory framework, guilty of administrative mistakes

and said he "should be held responsible on behalf of the HKEx for any

major policy shortcomings in the preparation and release of the

consultation paper".

Exchange director Lo Ka-shui said the board had not spoken about who

should be held responsible, or about the renewal of Kwong's contract.

"The Exchanges and Clearing and the Securities and Futures Commission

could both do better in consulting the industry and with

inter-communication," Lo said.

HKEx released a paper on July 25 on its proposed delisting criteria,

one of which affected stocks whose price fell below 50 HK cents. The

paper was shelved three days later. Officials had since said that

investors mistook the proposals for firm policy.

Comment: Page 3

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