To Rosetta Fong, Quincy Wong, Mark Mak, Henry Shin, Tim Kwok, Francine Fu, Davy Wu, and Peter Ma:
I appreciate that you’ve decided to come to the negotiating table. However, I’m quite offended by your response. If you deny wrongdoing, then you are implying that Chung Yan and I are the wrongdoers, that you are the innocent victims, that all of our complaints are unwarranted, that ILAS is a good product, that she doesn’t deserve a refund, and that we are trying to extort money out of you because we are misguided or unethical people. Is this what you really think? Do you expect us to agree to this? If this is true, why are many of our friends upset now after learning all the facts about the ILAS products your company sold them? Why has every new person I’ve described ILAS to reacted with moral disgust?
Your team of lawyers say that you want your proposed settlement terms to remain strictly confidential. This is ridiculous. In the grand scheme of things, the total sum of money involved is so inconsequential that it doesn’t actually matter how much you offer Chung Yan or whether anyone knows it. If you’ve read all my messages and commentary, then you should know that Chung Yan and I are motivated primarily by a sense of right and wrong, and that the money involved is secondary.
Consequently, what we want most from you, far more than a refund, is an apology, not just to us, but to our friends who you also took advantage of, and to everyone in Hong Kong. This is non-negotiable. Your company has significantly contributed to the creation of an epic financial mess, and you need to help clean it up. I know your company is not the only one at fault, but that doesn’t excuse you from taking responsibility for your actions. As humans, we are all capable of evil (sometimes without realizing it), but at the same time, we are all also capable of asking forgiveness, forgiving others, and doing good. You must choose what kind of people you are and what kind of company you want to be a part of. Do you run from your mistakes and leave others to struggle alone with the consequences? Or do you have the integrity and courage to admit when you’re wrong and then work to make things right?
I believe the future of ILAS is doomed and that you are all sitting on a sinking ship. If I am right, would you prefer to be remembered as social parasites suffering from self-denial even after you’ve hit rock bottom? Or, to use a Christian metaphor, would you prefer to be “born again”? Are you ready to confess, repent, and commit to changing your ways?
I have a proposal for you which could demonstrate that you are genuinely committed to reform, and it could also help improve your company’s reputation. It wouldn’t be popular among some in the financial community. In fact, it would probably invite fierce hatred and resistance. But it would allow you to portray yourself as a leader and a champion of the public interest, and it could be the tipping point which sends a wave of financial regulatory reform throughout the globe.
As the largest independent financial advisory firm in Hong Kong, Convoy has an ability to influence regulators as well as other players in the industry. To demonstrate your commitment to serving the public, I propose that you voluntarily forsake the commission-based model and become one of the first and largest fee-only IFAs in Hong Kong. The announcement would send shock waves throughout the financial media. It would put Hong Kong regulators on the hot seat to follow in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, Australia, and other forward-looking countries. If Hong Kong banned commissions, then Singapore and other laggards would be under pressure to follow too.
I’ve addressed eight of you by name. Surely there’s at least one of you who is not totally blinded by ego and greed, one of you who knows the right thing to do. If so, I urge you to talk some sense into your colleagues. If they will not listen to you, consider resigning from your position so that you may become a force for good. You can demonstrate moral leadership from outside the company by speaking honestly and openly to the media and regulators.
To conclude, Chung Yan of course wants her money back, but more than anything, we want a genuine public apology, not just to her, but to everyone. We want you, the management and the board of directors at Convoy, to publicly admit that ILAS is an awful product and that you made a terrible mistake by deciding to build a business around aggressively selling it to the Hong Kong public. We want you to admit that the high commissions you earned from selling ILAS blinded you to the harm you were causing your clients and that your company has for many years profited by exploiting your clients’ trust and inexperience. After apologizing, we want you to work together with regulators, legislators, and insurance companies to properly educate the public and negotiate some sort of peaceful settlement with all ILAS policyholders who wish to exit their contracts. I’m aware of how complicated this last request will be, but it is the most ethical thing to do, nonetheless. It’s also the most efficient way to deal with all the complaints that are sure to come (some of which will likely be facilitated by me, in assistance to friends and others who ask for my help).
I’m cc-ing this message to regulators and the media, and I look forward to hearing your response. Personally, I am willing to forgive, but only if the apology is sincere and followed by a true transformation in behavior. I think we’ll all be happier if we don’t have to be enemies.