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Investor Relations, Shanghai Style

Don't complain about your investors unless you've been held captive overnight for a trading loss that isn't your fault.
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USGFX staff sleep in their office during an investor dispute. (WeChat)

USGFX staff sleep in their office during an investor dispute. (WeChat)

Anyone who invests other people's money for a living knows well the pains of dealing with those other people. Investors often operate under the assumption that by paying someone else for a financial service they've insulated themselves from ever losing a cent. Much unpleasantness can ensue.

But chances are any money managers reading this haven't had an experience even remotely like that of Union Standard Group Forex, an Australian brokerage whose Shanghai office just received a particularly direct message from aggrieved investors:

USGFX said that up to 50 investors entered their offices Wednesday afternoon, initially taking 20 staff hostage. Most staff were let go but three staff from China and Taiwan continued to be held in the offices as of Friday, USFGX said on its WeChat account.
Local news reports say food and water were brought to the offices and that one of the employees may have received minor injuries in a scuffle. Photographs posted by the company on WeChat showed CCTV footage of the confrontation, with staff of the brokerage scuffling and arguing with a group of people. Other images appear to show staff sleeping on the floor of a conference room.

The investors are apparently incensed over losing a cumulative $2.6 million in currency trades that went awry. Around 20 staff were held hostage to begin with, but apparently most of them were freed. As of midday Friday, Shanghai time, a handful remained captive.

As is usually the case, the brokerage seems to be getting blamed for someone else's error:

Staff said the stand-off related to trading losses made on behalf of investors from China's northeast, and a trader who acted on their behalf was at the centre of the dispute.

So take heart, embattled hedgies. Your investor issues could be far, far worse.

Investors hold staff hostage at Australian brokerage in Shanghai [FT]
USGFX: Australian currency trader staff in Shanghai held hostage in alleged extortion attempt [ABC.net.au]

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