Fri, Aug 15, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Finance minister names First Financial successor

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Finance Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday named Steve Shieh (謝壽夫), the president of Taishin Financial Holdings Co (台新金控), as the new head of First Financial Holding Co (第一金控), replacing Jerome Chen (陳建隆) who quit Wednesday.

"Shieh will take office [today], doubling as the financial holding company's president temporarily," Lin told a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Lin said he has entrusted Shieh to nominate a suitable president for the owner of the nation's fourth-largest bank by assets and expressed great confidence in him.

Shieh has strong financial expertise in consumer banking and is highly regarded in the banking community, therefore he is expected to make a great contribution to the future development of First Financial, Lin said.

Lin also said that the appointment was made on the recommendation of Vice Finance Minister Yang Tze-kaing (楊子江), who was formerly a senior banker with China Development Financial Holding Co (中華開發金控).

Before joining Taishin Financial, the 64-year-old Shieh worked at First Republic Bank (第一信託), Ford Financial Co (福特融資公司) and Texas Instruments Inc (德州儀器).

"I'll do my best to work with the staff of First Financial," Shieh told a press conference at Taishin yesterday evening, adding that he was honored to take over the new post.

Lin, in addition, yesterday defended Chen, who was accused by KMT legislative caucus leader Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進) of insider trading in the financial institution's US$515 million sale of 1 billion shares late last month.

"The accusation is groundless since no irregularities have been found," Lin told reporters.

Lin reiterated that there were flaws in the deal, since a portion of the shares -- in the form of global depository receipts (GDRs) -- which should have been sold to overseas investors were instead sold to offshore units of Yuanta Securities Corp (元大證券).

The KMT's Lee, however, insisted that finance authorities should launch a thorough investigation into Chen's alleged illegal involvement in the deal.

"Within nine trading days, First Financial sold short some 160,000 shares with a return of NT$500 million," Lee told a press conference yesterday morning.

The KMT caucus would therefore ask the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office to issue a restraining order, curbing Chen, First Financial president Ray Dawn (董瑞彬), and his staff from leaving the country, Lee said.

Until details of the deal are clarified, the government should suspend its plans of releasing the institution's state-owned shares to the private sector, Lee added.

Chen yesterday also flatly denied the lawmaker's accusation.

Chen said that he was wronged because few people understand the process of issuing GDRs in overseas markets. He insisted due process was followed.

According to Lin, Chen was under great pressure before the deal since few analysts expressed confidence in the financial institution's ability to attract foreign investors.

Afraid of retaining a plethora of unsold shares, Chen couldn't resist Yuanta's offer to place orders, Lin said, which may have been a misjudgment but has nothing to do with Chen's resignation.

"The accusation is not fair to Chen and may scare away other banks' future plans to issue GDRs," Lin added.

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