Hong Kong antitrust chief says staff turnover ‘inevitable,’ enforcement efforts stable

20 March 2017 1:20pm

14 December 2016. By Yonnex Li.

Hong Kong's antitrust chief Anna Wu today said it is inevitable that the city's competition regulator would lose employees to the private sector, but noted that the high turnover hasn't affected its enforcement work.

The commission has lost staff to private institutions including law firms and economic analysis firms, Wu told a press briefing in Hong Kong that marked the first anniversary of the commencement of the city's Competition Ordinance, which went into full force on Dec. 14 last year.

"This is inevitable," the chairwoman said, noting that the commission is one of the primary sources of antitrust expertise in the city. "Since I became chairperson, I have understood that our trained staff will turn to the private sector [which is] posing competition with us."

She said she welcomed the situation because it facilitates the transfer of antitrust expertise to the broader commercial and professional sectors of Hong Kong.

The chairwoman said the commission indeed has staff turnover that "is not low" in her view, but pointed out that certain foreign agencies faced an even higher rate of loss of employees. She said the regulator hasn't faced difficulty finding replacements, and has seen interest from high-quality parties.

"Though we would face changes in the future, our enforcement work remains very stable," she said.

As reported by MLex last month, the commission is set to undergo a wholesale reshuffle of top executives next year, highlighted by the departure of Chief Executive Officer Rose Webb and Executive Director for Operations Timothy Lear.

The chairwoman also commented on a recent organizational restructuring at the commission where a head in economics and policy will replace the original position of chief economist, saying that the change was targeted at having economic analysis contribute to policy research and recommendations.

Discussing the commission's operations, Wu said the agency has issued 40 notices so far for documents and information to assist with its investigations. Senior Executive Director Rasul Butt said the commission, having about 20 people on its operations team, has conducted searches of five premises so far.

Butt also said the regulator has received nine submissions so far on its consultation over the application by a local shipping association for a block exemption order.

He also said the regulator's ongoing market study on the auto-fuel market will be released early next year, adding that the agency was able to obtain information from relevant parties.

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