Singapore Regulator Says Won't Tolerate Fund Managers' `Window Dressing'

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it won’t tolerate “window dressing” by fund managers in its response to an appeal against the civil stock-rigging lawsuit it won last year against Pheim Asset Management Sdn.

“Any other decision would encourage and embolden professional market players to flout the rules and undermine the integrity of the market,” the central bank said in documents filed at the Singapore High Court on Jan. 21, arguing that the appeal by Pheim and its Chief Executive Officer Tan Chong Koay should be dismissed.

Pheim and Tan, 61, have denied rigging the stock and said they’re “value” investors. They bought almost 90 percent of the traded shares of United Envirotech Ltd. from Dec. 29 to Dec. 31, 2004. The shares rose 17 percent over the three trading days and helped raise the net asset value of the fund’s accounts, triggering bonuses of S$50,790 ($39,560) and a management fee of S$115. The trial is scheduled to start the week of March 14.

Justice Lai Siu Chiu in her Sept. 17 ruling said Pheim and Tan had sought to boost their reputation instead of seeking monetary gains in rigging the stock. The MAS, which had sought a fine of S$1 million each, said in its January filing the S$250,000 penalty imposed was “amply justified.”

Fund management companies, which build their reputations around the performances of their funds, “can be particularly susceptible to the lure of window dressing practices,” the Singapore regulator said.

‘Genuine Activity’

The judge’s decision would “curtail genuine market activity,” Pheim and Tan, who was named Malaysia CEO of the Year on Jan. 20 by the magazine Asia Asset Management, said in their Dec. 21 appeal. The firm and Tan wouldn’t have “risked their livelihood and business” by rigging the stock, they said.

Tan, who founded Pheim Group which manages $1.8 billion, was in 2002 named one of five successful Singapore-based boutique fund managers by the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

Singapore, which expanded its fund management industry to a record S$1.2 trillion at the end of 2009, has tightened the rules for financial misconduct and set up a team to prosecute sophisticated economic crimes and regulatory offenses.

“The appellants and other fund managers in the market cannot be given cause to think that they can get away lightly with window dressing practices by paying relatively insignificant sums of money,” the regulator said in its 403- page filing.

Tan’s “lies and concealment of his involvement point to a deliberate effort by Pheim and Tan to manipulate the market,” the monetary authority said. “It is clear that this is a classic and insidious case of market manipulation.”

Cavinder Bull from Drew & Napier LLC is acting for the monetary authority and Vinodh Coomaraswamy is representing Tan and Pheim.

The case is Tan Chong Koay v Monetary Authority of Singapore, CA186/2010 in the Singapore High Court.

-- Editors: Joe Schneider, Garry Smith, Douglas Wong

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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