In January 2008, just when investors are shorting U.S. banks, Tony Tan spent billions of dollars of Singapore taxpayers’ monies to invest in Citigroup and UBS.
To justify his reckless actions, Tony Tan said in an interview with the Business Times, “In the case of UBS, they have a worldwide global wealth management business which is something not replicable by any bank. Citigroup has an international worldwide consumer business which is also unique.”
At the time, Jim Rogers, a former partner of George Soros in the famed Quantum Fund, said he felt “sad” for Singapore as it would be losing a lot of money.
Rogers continued, “They’re making a big mistake; these banks have many more problems still ahead. They should wait until these companies are really on the ropes a few years from now . . . and trading at $5 a share.”
Rogers also expressed doubts about the capability of GIC’s fund managers, including Tony Tan, “I know these people, and they have never given me the impression that they’re smarter than anyone else…They have gigantic amounts of money, but they’ve made a bad judgment in these cases.”
The sad truth is this news is not new, there have been many reports of loses via investments by the Singapore government be it in Temasek, GIC our sovereign fund or other investments by reputable financial reporters. The problem is these are never reported in our local media. I think Singaporeans and Opposition alike should start asking these questions more regularly. For example, is our CPF money still there if the PAP government loses their power and other parties take over? Without transparent account of the Singaporean money, how can we be confident that that money are still there?
One thing I know from a friend working in GIC is that GIC is not subjected to MAS regulation. Yes all those who works in banks will know what a hard time banking regulators gives you all the time, sometimes nearly impossible tasks, and also the money your bank spend (there goes bonus!) to keep up with regulations. If you ever worked in a reputable financial institution, you will be surprised how the IT systems maintained in GIC and also who maintains them. I only shudder on the thoughts as reported also one the quality of the fund managers in GIC. If the head of GIC under Dr Tony Tan can make such financially dumb decisions, I wonder how many more bad financial decisions does the other fund manager makes?