David M. Webb
For years, David M. Webb was just another habitual letter-to-the-editor writer. He observed local goings-on and dashed off critical missives to newspapers--first in Britain, where he grew up, and then in Hong Kong, where he has lived since being sent out from London as an investment banker with BZW in 1991. But thanks to the Internet, Webb now has a powerful new venue: webb-site.com. With it he has become a lonely voice of criticism in a city of opaque business practices and lackluster disclosure laws. "The aim is to stop the rot in corporate governance," says Webb, 34.
Two years ago, Webb retired to manage his own stock portfolio. In the process of investigating companies to invest in, he came across all kinds of suspicious behavior behind the closed doors of corporate Hong Kong. A self-described "computer geek," he now posts his findings on the site, providing a much-needed pro bono service to the public seeking information about publicly traded companies.
Webb, who studied mathematics at Oxford University and heads Hong Kong's Mensa chapter, keeps a bedroom full of meticulous files on Hong Kong companies' doings. He considers his muckraking critical to improving Hong Kong's market transparency. "I say, `O.K., you want to be a world-class financial center, let's see some disclosure,"' he says. The exposure is working: Webb's drumbeat against improprieties on Hong Kong's second board has put pressure on it to tighten listing loopholes.