HKEX hires top women managers to oversee IPO applications after bribery scandal taints world’s favourite market

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing has installed two senior executives to tighten its stock-listing process following a bribery scandal that tainted the world’s favourite

initial public offering

(IPO) market last year.

The stock exchange operator named accountant Karen Lok as senior vice-president and head of listing compliance – a newly created position – to improve governance and internal controls, it said in a statement late Thursday. It also hired lawyer Janice Wu as managing director and co-head of IPO vetting, who will fill an existing vacancy from September.

Lok joined this week from PwC while Wu is currently the deputy general counsel at TPG Asia, a unit of US private equity firm, according to the statement. They both raised the tally of top women executives to at least five within the department that contributes

about 16 per cent

to the group’s fee-based revenue.

“HKEX has taken the right moves,” said Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, a lawmaker representing the financial services sector. “The new management hopefully can restore the confidence” in the stock- listing process, he added.

The appointments reflect outgoing chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia’s intent to repair its reputation after an ex-head in the department was arrested and charged for accepting kickbacks to sway IPO applications between June 2017 and April 2019. Hong Kong was the world’s top IPO destination for seven times in the past 11 years including in 2019, helping drive fees and trading revenue.

The Securities and Futures Commission earlier this month rebuked HKEX for its lapses in oversight, ordering the exchange to erect a conflict-proof “Chinese wall” to separate business executives and its listing department.

Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption last year arrested Eugene Yeoh Kim-loong, who co-headed the IPO vetting team, for pocketing HK$9.15 million over that 22-month span. He was charged in March this year. The ICAC also charged businessman Richard Lum Chor-wah for corrupting a public servant.

Wu will share the IPO-vetting responsibility with lawyer Stephanie Lau, who was promoted in May to replace Yeoh. That reshuffle also included the appointment of Katherine Ng as chief operating officer of listing.

Lok, Wu and Lau report to head of listing Bonnie Chan, a corporate lawyer hired in January from law firm Davis Polk to replace David Graham who retired on age-limit rules.

“With my leadership team now in place, I very much look forward to continuing to build the robustness and competitiveness of our listing regime,” Chan said in a statement. The team will seek to enhance Hong Kong’s position as an international financial market, she added.

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Author: Eleanor Hazelton