HK ICAC searches office of former JPMorgan top China banker-media

HONG KONG, March 31 Mon Mar 31, 2014 3:43am EDT

HONG KONG, March 31 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's anti-corruption agency searched an office belonging to a top JPMorgan Chase & Co banker in the city who recently resigned, amid a U.S. investigation into the bank's hiring practices, according to media reports.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on March 26 searched the office of Fang Fang, JPMorgan's outgoing chief executive officer for China investment banking, seizing computer records and documents, according to the reports.

On March 24, an internal memo said Fang would leave the firm but gave no reason for his resignation. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Fang's departure, said he had emerged as a key figure for U.S. authorities as they investigate whether the investment bank violated bribery laws by improperly hiring the relatives of well-connected Chinese officials.

"We do not comment on individual cases," said Alan Tse, a spokesman for ICAC in Hong Kong.

Marie Cheung, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment, while Fang Fang could not be immediately reached for comment.

U.S. authorities are examining whether JPMorgan's hiring of China Everbright Group Chairman Tang Shuangning's son helped the bank win assignments from Everbright, the Journal said, adding that JPMorgan has provided U.S. prosecutors with emails from Fang discussing the hire.

JPMorgan has withdrawn from underwriting a $3 billion Hong Kong listing by China Everbright Bank Co Ltd - one of two China initial public offerings it has stopped working on while the investigation is being carried out.

Other firms that have come under scrutiny for their hiring practices in Asia include Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. (Reporting by Lawrence White and Farah Master; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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