Former JPMorgan senior banker pleads not guilty to HK bribery charges

The logo of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is seen in Los Angeles, California. ― Reuters pic
The logo of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is seen in Los Angeles, California. ― Reuters pic

HONG KONG, July 18 — JPMorgan's former Asia investment banking vice-chair, Catherine Leung, pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery in a Hong Kong court today.

Leung is alleged to have offered employment to the son of the chairman of a logistics company as a reward for the chairman favouring JPMorgan when choosing banks to work on the company's IPO, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said in May.

Leung did not comment when approached by Reuters outside the court room. The trial for the case has been set to start on Feb. 25, 2020, and will continue for eight days.

A spokeswoman for JPMorgan declined to comment on the development today and instead referred to a statement in May that said: “This is a historical case, which JP Morgan reached agreement on and settled in 2016.”

JPMorgan agreed to pay US authorities US$264 million (RM1.08 billion) in 2016 to resolve allegations it hired the relatives of Chinese officials — dubbed “princelings” — to win banking deals.

The bank did not admit or deny the charges. As part of its settlement with the US Justice Department, a Hong Kong unit of the bank admitted to making quid pro quo hiring agreements with Chinese officials to win investment business.

US authorities at the time said JPMorgan's Asia unit created an elaborate programme, called “Sons and Daughters,” that allowed clients and influential government officials to recommend potential hires.

The US Federal Reserve banned former JPMorgan managing director, Timothy Fletcher, from the industry for life, in February, for his role in the hiring programme. Fletcher worked in the bank's Hong Kong office.

Leung was vice-chair of Asia investment banking when she left JPMorgan in February 2015 amid a wider reshuffle in the bank's regional leadership.

She first joined JPMorgan in 1994, according to her LinkedIn profile, and left to join rival Merrill Lynch in 2001, before rejoining JPMorgan in 2002.

The prosecutor in Leung's case, Glen Kong, asked the judge today to consider merging the case with that of another ongoing investigation as the two share a similar witness list.

No arrests have been made in the other case but the suspect, currently in mainland China, is likely to return to Hong Kong, the prosecutor said. Details of the case were not available.

Judge WK Kwok did not make a decision about merging the two cases today. — Reuters

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