In a continuation of the investigation into the business dealings of Premier Wen Jiabao and his family, The New York Times’ David Barboza details the emergence of Ping An Insurance as a leading Chinese financial institution and the role Wen may have taken in facilitating its success:
The survival of Ping An Insurance was at stake, officials were told in the fall of 1999. Direct appeals were made to the vice premier at the time, Wen Jiabao, as well as the then-head of China’s central bank — two powerful officials with oversight of the industry.
“I humbly request that the vice premier lead and coordinate the matter from a higher level,” Ma Mingzhe, chairman of Ping An, implored in a letter to Mr. Wen that was reviewed by The New York Times.
Ping An was not broken up.
The successful outcome of the lobbying effort would prove monumental.
Ping An went on to become one of China’s largest financial services companies, a $50 billion powerhouse now worth more than A.I.G., MetLife or Prudential. And behind the scenes, shares in Ping An that would be worth billions of dollars once the company rebounded were acquired by relatives of Mr. Wen.
Ping An disputed the New York Times report, according to The Associated Press:
Ping An Insurance Group said that recent media coverage related to the company had “serious inaccuracies, facts being distorted and taken out of context, as well as flawed logic.”
The insurer did not name a specific news outlet and nor did it say what the errors were. But the public relations company that issued Ping An’s statement said it was related to a lengthy New York Times investigation published on Sunday of how Wen’s relatives, using obscure partnerships to conceal their identities, profited by investing in the insurer after it avoided a breakup.
Ping An said it was a “law-abiding” company that complied with rules and regulations and made “factual, comprehensive disclosures and reports on its shareholders and operations.” The company vowed to take “appropriate legal action.”
See also CDT’s coverage of the fallout from the New York Times investigation, which prompted Wen’s lawyers to threaten legal action against the newspaper.