Tycoon Oei Hong Leong lodges case against Goldman Sachs

US commission orders banking firm to make settlement or respond to Oei Hong Leong over 'exotic' currency trade losses

The saga began in 2013 when Mr Oei entered into leveraged trades with Goldman Sachs involving the Brazilian real and the yen.
The saga began in 2013 when Mr Oei entered into leveraged trades with Goldman Sachs involving the Brazilian real and the yen.

Tycoon Oei Hong Leong is pursuing his case against banking giant Goldman Sachs over "exotic" currency trades that resulted in losses of US$34 million (S$47 million).

The latest move, to lodge a complaint with the United States Commodity Trading Futures Commission, has resulted in the commission issuing a letter on Jan 29, asking Goldman Sachs to respond to Mr Oei's complaint. The bank can either make a monetary settlement or respond to the complaint.

The deadline given by the commission was Feb 29. It is understood that Goldman Sachs asked for an extension of time.

The saga dates back to 2013, when Mr Oei entered into leveraged trades with the US bank involving the Brazilian real and the yen.

Mr Oei said that although he is a sophisticated investor, he was not familiar with the Brazilian currency. However, he was told that the real was stable as it is anchored to the US dollar like the Hong Kong dollar.

Goldman Sachs also allegedly said that real-yen trades were liquid and could be executed and unwound at any time, and that they behaved very like US dollar-yen trades.

Rather than falling as Mr Oei had expected, the yen strengthened against the real after then-US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke raised the possibility on May 22, 2013, that the central bank's money-printing programme would be scaled back. The news led to a flight of capital out of emerging markets.

On June 17, Mr Oei closed the trades, suffering a loss of 4.231 billion yen. After deducting the 1.055 billion yen received as premiums on the trades, he was left in in the red to the tune of 3.175 billion yen. This is the equivalent of the US$34 million that he was claiming.

Mr Oei said he would not have entered into these trades if the risks had been highlighted correctly. He had filed suits both in Singapore's High Court and New York's Supreme Court against the bank's parent, Goldman Sachs Group. These suits are no longer active.

However, the US Commodity Trading Futures Commission, whose role is to foster open and transparent markets and protect market users and their funds from fraud and other abusive practices, has now taken up this case.

If Goldman Sachs wishes to respond, a decision will be made as to whether the case goes to adjudication. Mr Edward Naylor, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Tycoon lodges case against Goldman Sachs'. Print Edition | Subscribe