Former China chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Charles Li said Monday that the investment banking company did not employ anyone “on the opinion or decision of any one individual person within JP Morgan.” His statement came a day after the Wall Street Journal reported, citing company emails, that Li recommended the bank hire relatives and friends of Chinese officials, known as “princelings,” during his tenure with JPMorgan.
The Journal reviewed the emails from 2003 to 2009, which emerged after a U.S. bribery investigation against JPMorgan. According to the report, the company’s internal spreadsheet tallying hires showed that Li recommended a number of referrals in six years, including at least eight in 2008. Those referred included a family friend of Huang Hongyuan, then a senior official at the China Securities Regulatory Commission and now president of the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
“Eight years have passed since the events referred to in the Wall Street Journal’s article and it is impossible for me to recall specific aspects of the JP Morgan internship program and particular referral hiring decisions,” Li, who is currently the chief executive of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. (HKEx), said in a statement, according to the South China Morning Post.
In 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into whether JPMorgan breached anti-bribery laws by wrongly hiring the relatives of Chinese officials in order to win business. The ongoing investigation has not held the bank responsible for any offense regarding the case.
“I left JP Morgan Chase China in 2009 but I can recall that there was a formal process in place within the bank for dealing with these matters which I followed. This included a thorough screening process involving the bank’s legal and compliance teams and offers were made on the basis of a review of the applicants’ credentials and feedback from multiple sources, not on the opinion or decision of any one individual person within JP Morgan,” Li reportedly said in the statement.
HKEx chairman Chow Chung-Kong defended Li and brushed off the allegations, Reuters reported. In a statement issued Monday, Chow said: "As far as we are aware, this story does not have any bearing on Mr Li's role at HKEx and its business. Under Charles Li's leadership and through a number of important and strategic initiatives, HKEx has substantially grown its business."