Three Better Questions for Counsel

In the Hutong
California Dreaming
1522 hrs.

Going through my backlog, I came across this brief interview of venture capital attorney Richard Kline, of the Shanghai offices of Wilson Sosini Goodrich & Rosati.

I don’t doubt that Mr. Kline knows his stuff (I don’t agree with everything he said, though he gave reasonable answers), but the softball questions that the reporter from The San Francisco Chronicle tossed at him hardly gave him a chance to prove it.

The questions:

1. Why is the trend of Chinese companies seeking financing in U.S. markets an important one to watch?

2. Why has China become such a rich source of IPOs?

3. What do you make of concerns of lower-quality companies entering the listings and starting a Chinese listings bubble?

These are what we in the corporate flackage trade call “warm-up questions,” not the sort of questions you would ask when you only get three chances to force a lawyer to come up with some worthwhile insights. 

I don’t blame the reporter: that he did not have the knowledge of China to ask some really penetrating questions is his editor’s fault. In my mind, this is one more proof that media cannot hope to cover China with any cogence from six thousand miles away.

The questions I would have asked Mr. Kline:

1. What are you doing to improve the transparency and reporting standards of the Chinese companies you are bringing to western capital markets? What more could you be doing?

2. Even prominent Chinese executives bemoan the dearth of management talent in China, and the difficulty of keeping talented people from defecting to go build their own business. What must Chinese companies do right now to address the growing talent gap in the top ranks of their leadership?

3. Given the uncertainties faced by companies operating in a country where the government is constantly changing the rules and the playing field, and given the lack of sophistication about China even among supposedly sophisticated institutional investors, are current risk disclosure practices really adequate? Why/why not?

But that’s just me. What would you ask Mr. Kline, Esq.?

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