SFC reprimands and fines China Merchants Securities (HK) Co., Limited $27 million for sponsor failures

27 May 2019



The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has reprimanded and fined China Merchants Securities (HK) Co., Limited (CMS) $27 million for failing to discharge its obligations as a joint sponsor in relation to the listing application of China Metal Recycling (Holdings) Limited (China Metal) (Notes 1 to 3).

The disciplinary action followed the SFC’s earlier sanction against the other joint sponsor – UBS AG and UBS Securities Hong Kong Limited (collectively UBS) – for their failures in relation to the listing application of China Metal and two other companies (Note 4).   

The SFC’s investigation revealed that CMS and UBS had respectively failed in their due diligence as joint sponsors to address a number of unusual facts and findings on China Metal and its customers during the listing process (Note 5).

Inadequate due diligence with respect to a deregistered customer

Prior to the filing of the first listing application of China Metal on 2 June 2008, UBS discovered that one of the largest Mainland customers of China Metal, Company A, had been deregistered since March 2007 but it continued to enter into sales contracts with China Metal or its subsidiary thereafter.

Despite the following red flags raised in its due diligence, UBS accepted China Metal’s explanation that Company B, whose beneficial owner was the same as Company A, had entered into contracts with China Metal in the name of Company A since its deregistration, and Company B was eventually described as one of China Metal’s largest customers in documents submitted to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK) and in China Metal’s prospectus dated 10 June 2009: 

(i)    a report in March 2008 commissioned by UBS to look into this matter stated that, “Since [Company A] has never engaged in any active business operation during its corporate history and has not reported any major transactions, we consider the claim that [Company A] is the largest customer of [China Metal] to be without merits (sic)”;

(ii)   the company registration documents of Company A and Company B that UBS obtained in March 2008 did not support the assertion that they were related;

(iii)  China Metal’s Mainland Chinese lawyers informed UBS’s foreign legal counsel (copying UBS) in early April 2008 that:

(iv) China Metal’s Mainland Chinese lawyers further informed UBS in late April 2008 that they were not aware of any legal basis for describing Company B as one of the largest customers of China Metal; and

(v)  the documents provided by China Metal to UBS, including sales contracts, receipt vouchers and list of top customers, showed that Company A was the entity which purchased scrap metal from China Metal or its subsidiary.

Although CMS only became a joint sponsor of China Metal in or around November 2008, and was not involved in the due diligence conducted prior to November 2008 on this issue, it had an independent duty to conduct due diligence in order to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of China Metal and to satisfy itself in relation to the information disclosed in the prospectus.

The SFC considers that if CMS had reviewed the due diligence documents provided by UBS and other professional parties with professional skepticism, it would have discovered that there were conflicting propositions on which entity or entities were contracting with China Metal at the material time, which raised a number of red flags about the genuineness of the transactions between China Metal and Company A and/or Company B.  The SFC considers that the evidence suggests that CMS had not taken any steps to conduct follow up due diligence on this issue.

Inadequate due diligence on third party payments

In September 2008, when UBS was still a sole sponsor for China Metal, the reporting accountant of China Metal sent certain information to China Metal (copying UBS) regarding six of its customers who made payments by cashier orders and/or remittance arranged by third party payers.

In one case, a customer who paid China Metal through a third party, also made payments on behalf of three other customers of China Metal.  There is no evidence that UBS had followed up with China Metal or any of the customers as to the relationship between the customers and reasons for them to enter into the payment arrangements.

UBS instead relied on its Mainland Chinese lawyers to look into the payment arrangements between one of the six customers and China Metal.  UBS was advised by the Mainland Chinese lawyers to obtain various documents concerning the transactions, including the payment records from the customer to its third party payer, and customs documents showing the import/export of concerned goods, to verify the genuineness of the transactions and completion of customs procedures.

However, UBS did not obtain the requested documents but instructed the lawyers to provide their legal opinion on the assumption that the transactions in question were genuine.

Inadequate due diligence on China Metal’s suppliers and customers

UBS interviewed all suppliers of China Metal by telephone, and CMS also interviewed two suppliers by telephone before the filing of China Metal’s second listing application, but there is no evidence that they had verified the telephone numbers and/or the identities of the supplier representatives they interviewed.

UBS and CMS conducted some of the interviews with China Metal’s customers face-to-face and others over the telephone.  The SFC’s investigation revealed that:

(i)    none of the interview records indicates where the face-to-face interviews took place and whether UBS and/or CMS had taken any steps to verify whether the premises in which the interviews took place were the relevant customers’ premises; and

(ii)   there is also no evidence that UBS and/or CMS had taken any steps to verify the identity of any of the customer representatives they interviewed, so as to satisfy themselves that they had the appropriate authority for the interviews.   

In deciding on the appropriate sanction against CMS, the SFC has taken into account:

End 

Notes:

  1. CMS is licensed under the SFO to carry on Type 1 (dealing in securities), Type 2 (dealing in futures contracts), Type 4 (advising on securities), Type 6 (advising on corporate finance) and Type 9 (asset management) regulated activities.
  2. The SFC has also suspended the licence of Wu Yinong, sponsor principal in charge of the supervision of China Metal’s listing application for CMS, for 18 months.  Please see the SFC’s press release on Wu dated 27 February 2019.
  3. China Metal was listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (SEHK) on 22 June 2009.  On 26 February 2015, the Court of First Instance ordered that China Metal be wound up in the public interest on the application of the SFC. Please see the SFC’s press release dated 26 February 2015.
  4. Please see the SFC’s press release on UBS dated 14 March 2019.  The “Other Listing Application” referred to in the press release is the listing application of China Metal.
  5. UBS commenced its due diligence on China Metal since late 2007.  In its capacity as a sole sponsor of China Metal, UBS submitted the first listing application of China Metal to the SEHK on 2 June 2008.  CMS joined UBS as a joint sponsor around November 2008, after the SEHK alerted UBS that UBS would become a non-independent sponsor if 15% of the net proceeds from China Metal’s IPO was applied to settle the debts owed to UBS AG or its related company.  On 24 February 2009, UBS and CMS submitted the second listing application on behalf of China Metal in their capacity as its joint sponsors.

A copy of the Statement of Disciplinary Action is available on the SFC website



Page last updated : 27 May 2019