Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monetary Authority of Singapore Tries To Sue Pheim

Morningstar ranked Pheim ASEAN Emerging Companies Growth Fund ranked No. 1 for the 1-year, 3-year, 7-year, 10-year and 14-year periods for the Morningstar Category ASEAN Equity Funds as at June 2009.

First, let me say that I like CK Tan a lot, I think he is quite a brilliant fund manager. Besides being an outstanding long term outperformer, I also absolute share his view on the local market, this was uttered by Tan some 13 years ago: Pheim Asset Management CEO Tan Chong Koay believes that a buy-and-hold strategy is not appropriate for Malaysia's volatile market. Tan states that investors need to bet on the sharp swings of the market if they are to succeed in Malaysia.

It is being closely watched in the investment community, as Tan is well-known in fund management circles. Also, the case touches on the practice of “window-dressing” where big investors may try to ramp up or push down share prices — a key concern at the year-end when the value of a fund is determined.

Pheim Malaysia's case is it had already invested in the company when it was floated on the stock exchange earlier in the year. Its investment committee was keen to buy more United Envirotech shares, on the back of its success in investing in Hyflux. There were three funds in question — but under Malaysian rules, each fund could not hold more than 10 per cent of foreign (non-Malaysian) stocks. So it was only after these three funds had sold off some Singapore stocks on Dec 28, that the firm was able to buy into United Envirotech. Pheim Malaysia argues that it was a genuine investor, believing the shares were undervalued in 2004.

My views in brackets.

UET shares are the subject of a High Court lawsuit. The Monetary Authority of Singapore is suing Tan Chong Koay and his Malaysian fund Pheim Asset Management for alleged false trading in UET shares in December 2004.

Justice Lai Siu Chiu heard evidence yesterday from former UOB Kay Hian broker Tang Boon Siah, who said he received 'discretion' orders from Pheim Malaysia to buy about $100,000 of UET shares on Dec 29, 30 and 31, 2004 and filled these orders slowly, and mostly at the end of each trading day, because the stock was illiquid.

Examined by Pheim's lawyer Foo Maw Shen of Rodyk & Davidson, Mr Tang said he mostly lifted offers from the sell queue and waited as long as he could between trades so prospective sellers might appear. Even then he was unable to completely fill the order, but the price changes on each trading day did not exceed 20 per cent, he said. (Filling an illiquid order is a very difficult task, the broker did the right stuff, waited till end of the day before taking out the sellers queue, and he also ensured that it did not exceed 20% price movement daily. (Nothing sinister here).

Mr Tang said he kept in frequent telephone contact with Mr Tan on Dec 30 and 31, 2004 to update the latter on the status of the market. Mr Tan is represented in the case by Senior Counsel Michael Hwang. MAS, represented by Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull of Drew & Napier, alleges Mr Tan and Pheim created a false market in UET shares by their purchases, especially when timed so close to the end of the year. The purchases were also made mostly at the end of each trading day. (Mr. Bull is obviously deluded as to why shares had to be done mainly at the end of the day, this is to prevent other speculative buyers jumping in thus driving the shares up even more. By definition, a false market is WHEN YOU LITERALLY CONTROLS THE BUYERS SIDE AND THE SELLERS SIDE - if Phiem really did try to create a false market, then by all means the genuine sellers would dump their shares when the share price moved up day by day, Pheim was not selling).

The purchases caused the share price to close significantly higher and created a false and misleading appearance in the market, Mr Bull argued. This contravened Section 197(1)(b) of the Securities and Futures Act, he said. (OMG, MAS and Mr. Bull, why bother with this frivolous and naive lawsuit even. It was not a one day affair, it was spread out over 3 days. Did it amount to trying to close the share price at a certain level, or was it due to a genuine attempt to buy more shares).

Mr Tan and Pheim deny the accusations, saying the purchases were legitimate commercial transactions. Former HSBC Securities managing director Christopher Chong is expected to take the stand as an MAS expert witness on Monday when the hearing resumes. The defendants have called Nels Radley Friets - chairman of the Singapore Exchange and Catalist disciplinary committees, but appearing in his private capacity as their expert witness.

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s central bank sued Pheim Asset Management Pte Chief Executive Officer Tan Chong Koay and the fund manager’s Malaysian unit for manipulating the shares of a water treatment company.

Tan and Pheim Asset Management Sdn. bought almost 90 percent of the traded shares of Singapore-based UET from Dec. 29 to Dec. 31, 2004, according to a statement presented to Singapore’s High Court by the Monetary Authority of Singapore's lawyers Drew & Napier LLC yesterday.

That created a “false or misleading appearance” of the market and the company’s stock, Cavinder Bull, a lawyer with Drew & Napier, said in the statement. The share purchase raised the net asset value of Pheim’s accounts, triggering outperformance bonuses of S$50,790 ($35,218) and an additional management fee of S$115, lifting the reputation of the fund manager, Bull said in the statement. (This is so laughable. A performance bonus of nearly S$61,000. Can someone please clarify what is Tan's net worth in 2004? I mean, the "reasonable man" defense here would tear this to shreds).

Pheim and Tan wouldn’t have been motivated by the “insignificant” amounts, according to a court statement from their lawyers. They “had no intention to create a false or misleading appearance,” according to the statement. United Envirotech shares were undervalued and the purchases were “part of a legitimate and genuine investment strategy,” it said.

UET price movements during that period were “a reflection of genuine demand and supply,” and the stock was “illiquid” and “volatile,” according to the statement. Pheim bought the shares for 38.4 Singapore cents to 43.9 Singapore cents each in December 2004. The shares climbed 17 percent from Dec. 29 to Dec. 31 that year.

“This was not the conduct of a genuine buyer seeking to buy shares at the lowest possible price,” the central bank said in its court filing. “Such a genuine buyer would have spread out the purchases of a thinly traded stock in order to avoid spikes in the prices.” (Not necessarily as the record should show that even as prices went higher with each progressive day, there were no excited sellers of the shares or else Pheim would have had the opportunity to buy a lot more shares. It was obvious that the shares were tightly held. MAS might as well GO AND SUE THE SHAREHOLDERS OF UTC WHO DID NOT SELL THEIR SHARES when Pheim started to buy the shares aggressively, does the fact that they did not sell to an irrational share price rise amount to stupidity or an act to collude with Pheim to allow the share prices to go even higher??).

Tan will call Nels Friets, chairman of the disciplinary committee of Catalist, the small-caps board of the SGX, as an expert witness in his defense. The central bank has called Christopher Chong, former managing director of HSBC Securities Pte, as its expert witness. Tan couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The central bank declined to comment on on-going legal proceedings. Tan and Pheim may be fined between S$50,000 and S$2 million if found guilty, according to the court filing.

Pheim, founded by Tan in 1994, manages more than US$1 billion and counts the GIC and Malaysia’s Employee Provident Fund among its clients, according to its Web site. Tan, who has offices in Singapore and Malaysia, once jokingly said that Pheim was a made-up word which means Please Help Everyone Invest Money.

The case is Monetary Authority of Singapore and Tan Chong Koay, Pheim Asset Management Sdn Bhd., 658/2008/P in the Singapore High Court.

MAS should have a lot more things on their plate than to go for somebody like Pheim. Such a waste of resources and time.

p/s photos: Eri Otoguro


Maverick said...

For me the important issue is what happened in the new year, in January 2005. Did the shares immediately tank, then I think what happened is highly suspicious. However, if the shares stay at about the same level, or even trend further upwards, then I dont think there is an issue.

Being solely responsible for about 80% of the daily turnover does raise alarm bells for me, and I think MAS has therefor a duty to investigate. But it is a rather grey area, and I am interested to see what happens in this case.

By the way, I get the impression that Pheims results have been rather disappointing for the last 6 years or so. My guess is that his good years were before that.

believe said...

maverick, last 6yrs he left it to a lady who is now abt 34 i think,to manage, anyway,not all of the funds

it's so crappy that MAS went after this,cuz it was a genuine commercial decision,
TCK is 1 of the rare FM w good ethics