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09-Aug-2020 Intellasia | Bloomberg | 9:57 AM Print This Post

A spate of corporate scandals in Asia from China’s Luckin Coffee Inc. to Singapore’s commodity trading firm Hin Leong Trading Pte are prompting some consulting firms to beef up their headcount for investigators.

Across the world, investors are bracing for more corporate malfeasance. Carson Block and and other fraud hunters say the next big wave of scandals may be imminent as the coronavirus crisis makes bad behavior tougher to conceal.

In times of economic downturn, more instances of fraud tend to come to light and individuals are also under greater pressure to perpetuate the wrongdoing, according to Chris Fordham, managing director at Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations team in Hong Kong and China.

“We are hoping to increase our disputes and investigations team headcount from around 35 to 75 in the next two to three years,” said Keith Williamson, who leads that team at Alvarez & Marsal, adding that more than half of the increase will likely be in mainland China.

Governance and murky accounting among Chinese firms are growing areas of concern for international investors as the nation opens up its capital markets.

Since joining Kirkland & Ellis three years ago, this year has been the busiest for Cori Lable, a Hong Kong-based partner in the government and internal investigations group at the firm.

The company has hired two people in Shanghai for investigations in the last few months and is recruiting in Hong Kong as well, according to Lable.

“We are looking to hire people with language skills in the region,” said Lable, whose firm is advising a special committee formed by Luckin Coffee’s board to oversee an internal investigation.

Kirkland & Ellis often works with clients evaluating potential investments in distressed assets, and its more active markets include China and India, where corporate pain has sparked investigations and internal reviews, according to Lable.

“I think it’s natural when economic times are harder and balance sheets might be scrutinised more closely that irregularities come to the surface more easily,” said Lable.



Category: Regional

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