Monday, July 28, 2014

If I Want To Know Your Opinion, I'll Tell You What It Is

The latest organisation to misrepresent or at least, purportedly but without consultation, to represent its members' views, is the Hong Kong Institute of Directors, one of those buy-a-qualification, get-a-bottle-of-wine-if-you-find-a-member (really! - I quote - "As a token of appreciation for a member who successfully sponsors a new member, the Institute is pleased to present to the sponsor a bottle of wine of superb vintage") organisations.

From a circular issued today by its Council:
       The Council supports:
The selection of the Chief Executive and formation of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage developed in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (emphasis mine).
The Council disapproves of:
Any action to Occupy Central.
Admittedly, they have been sensible (cunning? weaselly?) enough not to state that they are representing their members (unlike the Big 4 accountants who were publicly slapped down by their staff) but in fact the Council only exists to represent its members so this is a mere subterfuge.
The debate over Occupy Central has been going on long enough that they could have canvassed their members' opinions. In fact, only last week, I am told, they sent out a questionnaire to all members including such questions as "Do members want more Happy-Hour networking session", but no mention of and hence no apparent Council interest in members' opinions on Occupy Central.
How does this fit into good corporate governance, I wonder?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tugging The Forelock

The FT reported last week that the placing of the anti-Occupy Central ad by the local offices of the Big 4 shoeshiners was indeed instigated by Beijing. This explains why the local offices didn't clear it with their head offices - in case they found themselves in the awkward position of having to say 'No' to China.

Thanks, boys - it's nice to know how principled your stand really was.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shine On

The Chinese ambassador to London has quoted with approval (in the FT) the stance of the Big 4 Shoe Shiners.

That leaves one question to be answered - were they put up to it by the Chinese in the first place?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Public Service Announcement

Patrons of this site are warned to watch out for these people - Internet Commercial Information Services Ltd.(or ICIS) - selling space in directories. The apparent links to the Times and the Sunday Times are persuasive, but the principal, one Martyn Cope, is the same person as the one linked to the Channel 7 "scheme" a few years back, under which punters coughed up around ten thousand quid a time in order to join an exclusive referral network, only to find a new meaning to the word exclusive, as in excluded from one's own money. It is almost exactly two years since Hong Kong companies were being offered these exclusive services.

Mr. Cope is currently in Hong Kong on a business trip.

Back then, there was a Mark Edmund doing the cold calling. Nowadays, it is a Mark Stephens. Plus ça change ...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Has Beans

I have never been a fan of the "big" accounting firms, even as their numbers have been whittled down from eight (when I was a youth) to the current four. My dealings with them over the years in Hong Kong have shown them to be not particularly good at their jobs, despite their fees being a multiple of those of smaller, more competent outfits. I came within a whisker of reporting one of the "Big 4" to the HKICPA for incompetence, bordering on negligence, a couple of years back, and the others are barely any better. So it is with a large dollop of schadenfreude that I see the local custodians of this particular licence to print money shoot themselves in their privileged feet.

The incomprehensible decision of the local branches of the four largest international accounting firms to get involved in politics by placing an ad in some of the Chinese papers (opposing Occupy Central) has backfired, in a number of ways, all of them predictable.

Firstly, they did not even get approval for their action from their head offices. Do they not realise that the global brand names of the firms, the intellectual property and the goodwill, do not belong to a few Hong Kong bean counters? As professionals (or even as amateurs), they should have a clear understanding of what is theirs and what is not; is there anything more basic than this?  But apparently they did not understand this .... unless they were operating on the principle that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission, in which case the placing of the ad moves from negligence to either recklessness or something even more culpable.

The international head offices of the four firms were swift to disown the actions of their renegade Hong Kong associates, saying that the first they had heard of the ads was through the press. If this had been done by, say, the local head of Coca Cola, one could imagine a quick recall to Atlanta for severance talks. Indeed, at least one of the firms has already called one of its senior local partners to London for 'talks'.

Next, their staff quickly rejected any suggestion that the ad represented their views by taking out an ad of their own, disowning, as the head offices had done, the local partners' views. The partners' views are therefore exposed as merely those of an elite within an elite, hiding behind a brand name they do not even own. Stupid or what? And all they have achieved, apart from a bit of PRC arse-licking, is to show their firms up as being divided, like the rest of Hong Kong, between the have-a-lots and the don't-have-so-muches, and to polarise Hong Kong just that little bit more. All so very predictable to anyone who thought it through, at least anyone without a silver spoon up their jacksie.

And international comment (at least two articles in the FT, a feature on the Australian Channel news programme, condemnation by Chris Patten and by Anson Chan) has focussed on the inadvisability of the ad rather than any underlying issues. Again, all the ads have achieved is to make the local partners look silly, and to damage the respective accounting brands.

But perhaps the intention was just to kowtow to China for short-term personal advantage, and hang everyone else, in which case being slated by Patten and Chan would be a plus. Except that it is well-known that China is busy grooming its own competitors to the Big 4. And the cold wind of competition is already having its effect on their super-profits in Hong Kong: the local partners of at least one of the Big 4 recently took 20% salary cuts.

The writing's on the wall, boys: maybe you yourselves should stop "occupying Central" and start trimming your sails.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rolf Harris - Greatest Living Australian

For those down under (ooh, err!) reeling to the news that the greatest living Australian has been convicted of kiddie fiddling, here is a tribute to their erstwhile hero, loosely based on the greatest of all Australian songs, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.

(Explanatory note to Australians - this is a joke.)

There's an old Australian entertainer, lying, lying
And he gets himself up on one elbow
And he turns to his mates, who are all gathered 'round him
And he says

Download me loads of child porn, Sean
Download me loads of child porn
I need to shoot off my spawn, Sean
So download me loads of child porn

All together now
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown

Make me cock a bit hard, Barb
Make me cock a bit hard
Please don't go telling your pa, Barb
Just make my cock a bit hard

All together now
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown

Don’t go growing no pubes, Jude
Don’t go growing no pubes
I like it when it’s still nude, Jude
Oh don’t go growing no pubes

All together now
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown

Let old Rolfie go loose, Bruce
Let old Rolfie go loose
He promises no more abuse, Bruce
So let old Rolfie go loose

All together now
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown

Please don’t jail me too much, Judge
Please don’t jail me too much
In jail they’ll be packing my fudge, Judge
So please don’t jail me too much

All together now
Try me in Southwark Crown Court

Try me in Southwark Crown
Try me in Southwark Crown Court
Try me in Southwark Crown

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Gravy Situation

The trial of the century (so far) has opened, with former top civil servant, Raphael Hui, being charged with corruption, together with the Kwok weirdos.

Highlighted by David Perry, QC, the prosecutor, and also by the SCuM Post on Saturday, as evidence of Hui's living beyond his means and hence his likely guilt included Hui having purchased a HK$40k watch and having also once spent HK$34k on a dinner.

Whilst your correspondent wouldn't dream of spending (except on HH) HK$40k on something that looks the same and does the same job as its HK$300 counterpart, Mr. Perry, who must be new to Hong Kong, should take a look at the wrists of a random sample of Hong Kongers: HK$40k is at the bottom of the range of so-called luxury watches and the average Hong Konger would not look at a watch this cheap a second time after the requisite initial checking out of watch, shoes, handbag. and so on

And HK$34k for dinner - well, it's a lot of money, but we need more than the bald figure before we decide that a top civil servant, earning enough money even before bribes to be able to afford this, had to have been extravagant to splash out this much. Nicholini's is not cheap (OpenRice says HK$300 - 500 per head, but I think that is a minimum, before wine), but does this mean everyone who eats there is doing so on ill-gotten gains? If the dinner was for a special occasion (such as Hui's 60th birthday), and if guests were ordering what they fancied rather than the cheapest dishes, and wine other than the house red was flowing freely, then one could imagine a party of 20 (just two tables if in a Chinese restaurant) knocking up this bill.

Picking these as examples of extravagance does Perry's, and hence Hong Kong's, case against Hui and the Kwoks no good. I could understand Perry making this newbie mistake, but the SCuM Post should know better. Far more convincing as evidence of sleaze and corruption would be former Chief Execrable, Donald Tsang's, fulsome endorsement of Hui. I rest my case.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

For FuCC's Sake

It's that time of year again - elections at the FCC, the time when an elite portion of the minority of the club's members cling onto power, just rotating the top position.

My mole at the FCC tells me that the board has got themselves into a right buggers' muddle, having failed to notice the single most important reform of company law in living memory in Hong Kong. Perhaps they haven't been reading the papers for the last two years. Or perhaps they are all telejournalists.

Anyway, when sending out the notices for the AGM (and for an EGM for a motion to restrict the tenure of board members), they omitted to say that proxy votes could be cast. This is a requirement - one of the changes under the new Companies Ordinance, the single most important reform of company law in living memory in Hong Kong. (Did I mention that?)

Although this makes the notice non-compliant, apparently the AGM and EGM themselves would not be invalidated by the omission. Nevertheless, it appears that the board has panicked somewhat and deferred the AGM to a date outside the permitted date range (so still not compliant) and cancelled the EGM. No self-interest operating there, then.

As a result, a correspondence has built up amongst disgruntled members, most of whom, as people who merely read the papers, are barred from full board membership. There is talk of holding the board to account. Shock! Horror! My mole has been kind (or indiscrete) enough to forward the e-mail chain to me.

Fortunately, cooler heads are starting to prevail. One David O'Lear, a former governor of the board and a current nominee for second vice president, says in the chain:

The new Companies Ordinance requires that we have proxy voting at AGMs and EGMs. We did not provide for that, partly because of change of secretaries but also because advice received did not identify proxies as an important issue.
So Mr. O'Rear has pointed his finger, firstly, at two company secretaries without saying which one (outgoing or incoming) was to blame (or explaining how a mere change in secretary could cause a problem) and, secondly, at the FCC's advisors (omitting to state whether advice was sought on the specific issue, on the wider question of the application of the new Ordinance (the single most important reform of company law in living memory in Hong Kong - did I mention that?), or indeed whether any advice was sought at all on anything. His careful wording would be consistent with no advice having been either received or sought. Not exactly a straw man, but something like it.

But then he goes on to say:

I support X's attitude, .... don't point fingers and let the Board work it out.
Yes, don't point fingers. That's the way to go, Mr. O' Rear.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wind Power

There's nothing a Welshman likes more than a captive audience, and so it proved last Friday when I attended as a guest (modesty prevents me from disclosing whether I was a guest of honour) a dinner to celebrate the opening of the Hong Kong chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

The local speakers, including James Lee, head of the Hong Kong chapter, were brief, self-deprecating and witty. Lee also put on a Welsh accent every time he referred to the main speaker, one Martyn Jones, head of the ICAEW. Taking the piss out of your guest speaker: I like it.

Unfortunately, Jones the Drone did not drop his own Welsh accent; nor was he either brief or witty. Not a single titter did he raise, at least not for the right reasons. Tittered we not. Nor was he even accurate, referring to his own institute several times as the ICW. Institute of Cardiff Windbags, perhaps? He also referred to Hong Kong as a country.

Instead, he got caught in a loop of referring to the similarities between Hong Kong and the UK, and the virtuous feedback between service and success, and back again, round and round. He put the 'numb' into number cruncher. The virtuous feedback when he finally sat down was more in the nature of relief than appreciation.

Come back Neil Kinnock - all is forgiven.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

For Crying Out Loud

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Love Babies, But I Couldn't Eat A Whole One

One out of a notorious pair of brothers in Pakistan, one Mohammed Arif, has been arrested for eating a (according to some reports) new-born baby, but not the whole baby as its head was discovered in their house after reports of a stench coming from their property. Perhaps they should have curried it.

Another report (in the New York Daily News) says that the corpse, or what was left of it, was that of a three-year-old boy and that it had, indeed, been curried, although they confuse matters slightly by saying that "Ali [I think they mean Arif] admitted to boiling the toddler's body into a curry along with his brother, Farman Ali, whom police were still looking for." Surely, they should be looking for the brother in the curry pot. Maybe among the sticky bits at the bottom.

Still other reports state that this was just the tip of the ice-berg (or meat mountain, if you prefer) and that the brothers had already done two years of porridge for digging up and eating over 100 corpses. (Legal note: cannibalism itself is not a crime in Pakistan. The brothers have been previously convicted, and now charged again, with grave desecration and public order offences.) It looks like more time in the joint awaits them.

And here are the two brothers, pictured last time they were in stir, in case you are wondering what a high protein diet can do for you.

Farman Ali and Arif Ali, two brothers previously convicted of cannibalism, are taken to a local court after they were arrested again for cannibalism, in Sargodha, Pakistan

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bunnie Tyler

I heard on RTHK's news the other day that the missing Malaysian aeroplane "disappeared off the west coast of Australia". Errr ... no. It disappeared about 40 minutes north of KL which, last time I looked, was not off the west coast of Australia. The plane might be found off the west coast of Australia, but that is a slightly different matter.

But, moving from careless journalism to general not caring, what do we find? Hong Kong's very own Tony Tyler in the unexpected and surely uncomfortable position of having a sinecure (awarded after many years of taking Cathay' Pacific's share price absolutely nowhere) turn into a job requiring some action.

And what else do we find from this lifetime wallower in the corporate gravy train - yes, prevarication, flannel and obfuscation. Here is his response to the problems exposed by the missing aircraft.

"While constant downloads of all available information from every flight would be too tough to monitor and analyse, it should be possible to find a way of targeting critical data subsets". This is a classic straw man argument followed by jargon. No one is saying that all data needs to be monitored and analysed, but this is being used as a reason for not transmitting the data at all. And note how Tyler switches from everyday language ("too tough") when saying what he doesn't want to do to jargon when he talks about what he might get done. "Targeting critical data subsets", FFS!

“We make safety our top priority, but on very rare occasions tragedy strikes. We are all saddened by this event.”

Sad Tyler is "hopeful" that finding the missing plane "will allow us to transition from the current speculation to a full investigation.” In other words, not finding it will be an excuse for doing nothing. And he hopes that the investigation could be finished by the end of this year (only 9 months away when he said that) as it is "urgent". I'd hate to see what happens if something is not urgent.

But we have already seen that. Tyler also said it was time to “accelerate” ideas arising from AF447. Let me see, when was the Air France tragedy, which doubtless also saddened Topless Tone? Only 5 years ago? Oh, a mere drop in the ocean of eternity. The cynical might look even further back, to the September 11, 2001 hijackings, which highlighted how the system (of being able to turn off transponders) could backfire. The hijackers of three of the four commandeered aircraft “hid” the planes by turning off their transponders. So a mere 13 years have passed since the value of continuous contact with aircraft has been demonstrated.

“Our goal is to find out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” says Tony. Yes, just like you did 5 and 13 years ago. Not.

But even though safety is the "top priority", and even though Tony is sad, he said in Abu Dhabi at the Global Aerospace Summit that the cost of tracking would have to be examined in any decision. He said profit margins for the global industry this year were still very narrow (perhaps not as narrow as they were at Cathay after Tyler's foray into the hedging markets, eh, Tony?), and he expected them to be around $5.65 (£3.40) per passenger. “Clearly, cost is one of the issues that will have to be considered when we are looking at what to do about it. And we have to make sure that what we do is something the airlines can afford.”

Ay, there's the rub. Luckily, the cost of finding NH370 MH370 is being borne by Australian and other tax payers. And, with a bit of luck, they still won't find the plane and Tony can go back to sleep.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who's Judas And Why Are We Subbing Him?

Pootling around on Saturday, I heard on the radio Hong Kong's Commissioner of Police, Tsang Wai-hun, commenting on the current case of the Indonesian helper, who has been on Hong Kong TV screens for the past week lying apparently injured, allegedly as a result of physical abuse by her Hong Kong employer, in hospital back in Indonesia.

Mr. Tsang commented that inquiries with the Indonesian authorities and with the "victim" had gone well but then stated that he could say more as the matter was sub judice (or "sub Judas" as he put it).

Setting aside Mr. Tsang's unfamiliarity as a senior police officer with the pronunciation of a basic legal term, is he not aware that in a criminal case both actus reus and mens rea (or to make it simple for Mr. Tsang, fact and intent) have to be proved.

If the helper is already established as the victim, then Mr. Tsang seems to have pre-empted the courts' right to enquire into whether there was a crime in the first place.

What's next, Mr. Tsang? Predetermination of guilt?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rotor Ruin

A US Air Force helicopter has crashed in Norfolk. The BBC reports that it was "flying extremely low" before crashing.

Isn't that often the way with flying accidents?