Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chiou I-jen's Sophistry

Chiou I-jen's Sophistry
China Times editorial
translated by Bevin Chu
June 23, 2007

During the election of the board of directors for the China Development Financial Holding Corp. and the Hua Nan Financial Holding Co., their public shares took a catastrophic beating. People from all walks of life pointed the finger at the Ministry of Finance and the Financial Supervisory Commission for failing to protect the rights and interests of public shareholders. They felt that at the very least, Minister He and Chairman Hu should assume political responsibility. It appears however that Executive Yuan Vice-President Chiou I-jen is attempting to make excuses for the Executive Yuan's setback. Chiou I-jen claimed that the government lacked the necessary power, that for the government to attempt to seize the directorship would have been "asking for trouble." His statement was an attempt to intercede on behalf of the two officials. But democratic politics is supposed to be the politics of accountability. These officials, by flagrantly dispensing political pork to favored financial institutions, have been derelict in their duty and have brought dishonor to the nation. They have abused the authority of the executive branch, and must not be allowed to stonewall the public by simply ignoring the accusations leveled against them.

Chiou I-jen, by a narrow margin, holds a controlling interest in the China Development Financial Holding Corp. and the Hua Nan Financial Holding Co. Obviously he has jettisoned the government's previous policies. Take the China Development Financial Holding Corp for example. When Minister of Finance Lin Chuan allowed the Koo family-owned Chinatrust Commercial Bank to expel Diana Chen, one of the conditions was the Koo family had to own at least 15% of the stock. But according to its latest report to the Financial Supervisory Commission, Koo family shares fell short of the 15% threshold. Instead they joined with others to launch a proxy battle. First, they reneged on their pledge to the Ministry of Finance. Then they evaded the standard review for major stockholder suitability required by the Financial Supervisory Commission. On the one hand they wrung their hands over every detail. On the other hand they displayed utter indifference to their previous pledges and to the requirements of financial oversight. In the eyes of these financial institutions, the nation's administrative agencies were nothing. What credibility does this administration have to speak of?

Mr. Chiou needs to understand that how many government banks remain is not important. What is important is the process by which public shares are made available, because that is the key to the dispensing of political pork. It is also the current focus of public attention. If the government intends to make shares of Hua Nan Financial Holding Co. or China Development Financial Holding Corp. available to the public, whether by public auction or by feeling out strategic investors, it will receive a considerable sum of money. That money can become income for the state treasury. But if Hua Nan Financial Holding Co. or China Development Financial Holding Corp. (according to proxies) fall into hostile hands due to poor management of public shares, then large sums of income for the state treasury will be lost. The Minister of Transportation was forced tor resign and prosecuted merely on suspicion of accepting a few hundred thousand in cash hidden in tea canisters. In which case, shouldn't the Ministry of Finance and Financial Supervisory Commission accept responsibility for the loss of tens of billions of from the state treasury?

To allege that the public shares were not enough to allow the government to wage a proxy fight, and that any attempt to seize control of the board of directors would have been "asking for trouble" is amateur talk by someone who does not understand the market. Perhaps Vice-President Chiou has not dabbled in the money markets. Perhaps he did not understand that the recipients of the proxies were the Chang brothers, who are listed as major shareholders in the stockholders' report. Take Hua Nan Financial Holding Co. for example. The public shares obviously outnumbered those held by Lin Ming-cheng, yet the proxy fight was still a debacle. The only possible explanation is that those holding the public shares were unwilling to kneel down and kow tow to the Chang brothers. When private financial institutions were certain that public shares were not the object of a proxy fight, and wanted to avoid premium payments, the Executive Yuan should have boldly stepped forward to protect the public interest. Protecting the national interest is the solemn duty of all public servants. How can anyone dismiss it as "asking for trouble?"

Chiou I-jen's views on the Financial Supervisory Commission's intervention in the review of major stockholder suitability is also amateur talk. According to Articles 16 and 17 of the Financial Holding Company Act, the suitability of major stockholders must be reviewed by the Financial Supervisory Commission. If the Koo family, which controls less than 10% of the company, could evade the suitability requirements of the Financial Holding Company Act, merely because a daughter in law and a sister in law of the Koo family resigned from the board of directors, then the Financial Supervisory Commission may as well close its doors. Such obvious attempts to avoid legal supervision were followed by a coordinated attack on public shares. If the Executive Yuan insists on further restricting the conditions under which the Financial Supervisory Commission is permitted to intervene, then what we would like to know is whether the Financial Supervisory Commission is still a government institution or a vassal of private financial institutions.

We have already mentioned Chiou I-jen's inappropriate remarks. We must now go back and examine He Chih-chin and Hu Sheng-cheng's political responsibility. Although Minister He is familiar with US Internal Revenue Service procedures, he failed to understand domestic tax procedures, the political ecology of the legislature, the management of public shares, and even the appointment of the chairman of the board by means of public shares. In the China Development Financial Holding Corp matter, Minister He forfeited the veto that the 1/3 public shares offered him. He thereby made it impossible to use public shares to regulate policy in the future. Financial groups viewed him with contempt during negotiations. We consider his performance not merely a problem of political responsibility, but also of individual dignity.

From early on, in his presidential office report, Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Hu Sheng-cheng proposed his now infamous "Second Financial Reform," and defended the policy on television. After that, he followed Tsai Ying-wen's lead in applying the brakes to financial reform. In response to a long string of China Development Financial Holding Corp. management scandals, he has done absolutely nothing. From beginning to end, he has been constant only in his inconstancy. Taiwan's financial system in in chaos. That financial groups sit in contempt of the administration is a well known fact. The fundamentals of our financial industry are not good. Our international ranking continues to fall, and could even be termed directionless. Confucius said that "When the Way [of Justice] prevails in your own state, to be poor and obscure is a disgrace. But when the Way does not prevail in your own state, to be rich and honored is a disgrace." Chairman Hu has hopped from one position in the cabinet to another over the past seven years. From Minister without Portfolio, to Chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, to Chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission. His government experience is clear for all to see. If he still has an iota of political responsibility in him, he will not need the outside world to remind him of his duty.

By comparison, Minister Ho Chih-chin still resembles an ivory tower intellectual thrown into the political jungle. He is still a rookie, and has not lost his character. To demand that Minister He assume responsibility for public shares policy is actually an affirmation of his character. To demand that scoundrels assume responsibilty for their actions is no longer that important.

Original Chinese below:

中國時報  2007.06.23
邱義仁的錯辯 不能豁免財金首長政治責任

在 開發金、華南金改選董監,官股慘敗之後,社會各界都將矛頭指向維護官股權益不力的財政部與金管會,認為至少何部長與胡主委應該要負起政治責任。但是,日前 行政院副院長邱義仁似乎又在為行政院的挫敗找下台階。邱義仁認為,以往官方實力不夠而要強行爭取董監席位,是「自討苦吃」。這樣的發言,當然有替兩位財金 首長緩頰之意。但是民主政治就是責任政治,我們認為國家的財金首長以幾近喪權辱國的方式豢養財團坐大、踐踏行政權,絕不能以唾面自乾的方式自我安慰。

邱 義仁先生以狹隘的持股比例來評估開發金與華南金的董監爭奪,顯然是把以往政府的延續性政策給刻意切除了。以開發金為例,當初財政部長林全同意中信辜家趕走 陳敏薰的條件之一,就是辜家持股必須達到十五%。但是,此次辜家向金管會申報的股權不及十五%的門檻,卻又聯合其他戰友分進合擊收委託書,一則將當初對財 政部的承諾一腳踢開,再則規避金管會對大股東適格性的審查,首鼠兩端,卻全然視政府政策、先前承諾與金融監理如無物。國家行政機關在財團眼中根本像是垃 圾,這政府還有威信可言嗎?

其次,邱先生要了解:公營行庫最後剩下幾家不重要,但是公股釋出的「過程」,才是利益輸送的關鍵,也才是全民 關注的焦點。如果國家要將華南金或開發金的股權釋出,不論是公開標售或洽詢策略性投資人,都可以得到一筆可觀的溢價金,成為國庫收入。但是,如果華南金或 開發金因為公股管理(如徵委託書)不善而失守,則大筆的國庫收入將因而流失。交通部長只因為涉嫌收下裝有數十萬現金的茶葉罐就下台起訴,那麼流失數百億溢 價國庫收入的財政部與金管會,難道不該負起責任?

若說官股實力不足,去搶委託書、爭董監席次就是「自討苦吃」;這又是不了解市場環境的外 行話。邱副院長可能從來不曾在金融市場上打滾過,也從來不了解收委託書的訣竅是股東名冊與「委託書大戶」張家兄弟。以華南金來說吧,官股持股明顯多於林明 成,但收委託書仍是慘敗,這只能說是官股不善向張家兄弟磕頭下跪而已。事實上,當民間財團吃定官股沒有收委託書之專業,而想逃避溢價支付時,行政院當然應 該挺身護衛全民利益。「護國產」是所有人民公僕的天職,又怎麼能說是自討苦吃呢?

此外,邱義仁對於金管會介入金控股東適格性審查的看法, 也是外行話。依據金控法十六條及十七條,金控大股東的適格性要經過金管會的審查。如果只因辜家二媳婦把中信證券的董事辭去,就以形式上持股不及十%而迴避 金控法的適格性規範,那麼金管會乾脆關門算了。這麼明顯的迴避法律監督,再以分進合擊硬吃官股,行政院如果還要限縮金管會介入的時機,真不知道金管會是公 家機關還是私人財團的附庸。

邱義仁緩頰發言不當既如前述,我們還是要回過頭來檢討何志欽與胡勝正的政治責任。何部長雖然熟悉美國內地稅務 的稽查,但是對於國內的租稅背景、立院的政治生態、公股的管理都極為陌生,甚至公股指派的董事長都管不動。開發金一事,何部長不但失去了官股三分之一董事 的否決勢力,也使以後的公股管理政策完全破功,更在談判過程中被財團看扁。我們認為,這樣的表現,已經不只是負起政治責任的問題,而是個人尊嚴的問題。

至 於金管會主委胡勝正,從他早年在總統府簡報提出二次金改,到電視做政策辯護、而後伴隨著蔡英文踩金改煞車,至今又對開發金的公司治理一長串弊端無所作為, 一路走來始終不一。如今,台灣的金融秩序凌亂、財團坐大而蔑視政府,已經是社會共識。我們的金融業內在環境不佳、國際排名殿後,堪稱無道。孔子曰,「邦無 道,富且貴焉,恥也」。胡主委遊走內閣各部會長達七年,從政務委員、經建會主委到金管會主委,官場練達圓通,大家有目共睹。他如果心中還有一絲政治責任的 觀念,也就不需要外界再多做提醒了。


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