Sat, Apr 18, 2009 - Page 8 News List

JOHNNY NEIHU'S NEWS WATCH: Venality? We’re throwing it away

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side

The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying.

Spare a thought for Danny Pang (彭日成), our own “made in Taiwan” Bernie Madoff.

Just when you thought us Taiwanese couldn’t compete with the waiguoren in the dicey financial propositions department, along comes Mr Pang’s tale.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) broke the story this week, and it’s packed to the gills with alleged shenanigans at Mr Pang’s California-based, US$4 billion private equity fund — and related extracurricular activities.

It’s a juicy tale — and it’s got it all.

Entertaining prostitutes at the presidential suite of the Grand Formosa Regent? Check. Running a Ponzi scheme to cover investment losses? Roger that. A joint mining venture in Xinjiang with a Chinese “princeling”? Uh huh. Trips to Vegas in the company Gulfstream to gamble with “borrowed” firm money? Yep. An ex-stripper ex-wife shot to death in cold blood by an “elegantly dressed” assailant? Oh, yeah.

To cover my own legal behind, I hasten to add that Mr Pang has, through a spokesman, denied many of the allegations, describing most as “fabrications.”

But you know things are bad when you’ve hired Mike Sitrick, one of California’s top PR spinmasters, for damage control duty.

Sitrick’s already taken steps one and two from the Crisis Management 101 playbook: an independent “special committee” has been named to probe the allegations, and “pending the outcome” of that investigation, Mr Pang has stepped aside as chairman and chief executive. (Sitrick to Pang: “And don’t show your face in Vegas, got it?”)

So where’s Mr Pang now? According to his spokesman, in China — attending an “annual religious festival.”

Of course, it’s important to note that many of the allegations come from a source who is himself highly dubious: a former Pang buddy and business partner who himself admits to taking kickbacks (he says he returned them) and having an affair with a company employee.

He also admitted he was using the threat of talking to the WSJ as leverage in arbitration talks with Pang’s firm.

Still, the newspaper did its homework and found several other sources suggesting Mr Pang has made a career of being “economical with the truth.” My favorite detail: The WSJ reports he was a student leader at the University of California, Irvine, despite records showing he was only enrolled for one summer.

Asked about that apparent contradiction, a university spokeswoman said: “He could just walk on campus, be Mr Personality and get elected chairman. How would they know if he was a student?”

The Taiwan link? In addition to producing Mr Pang, the man’s fund apparently raises most of its money from Taiwanese banks.

Which means if you’ve deposited any money in Hua Nan, Standard Chartered or Taichung Commercial Bank in recent years, you may have unwittingly funded one of Mr Pang’s alleged lamei nights at the Grand Formosa or a company junket to Vegas.

The WSJ even has a picture from one of those trips, showing a female employee holding up cash onboard a Gulfstream jet on its way back from Vegas after Pang allegedly “threw money” at several female company employees as his way of celebrating gambling winnings.

Why did I go into journalism, again?

Speaking of tossing money around, they finally caught Taiwan’s mysterious money-thrower this week.

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