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David Li to head JPMorgan probe-hit China division

David Li, Former UBS' chairman of China operations.
Nelson Ching | Bloomberg | Getty Images
David Li, Former UBS' chairman of China operations.

JPMorgan has picked David Li, formerly of UBS, to head up its China business, which has been rocked by a probe by US regulators into the bank's hiring practices in the region.

Mr Li is moving to JPMorgan after nine years at UBS, where he was chairman and country head of China. He will be responsible for all JPMorgan's operations and products lines in China and will chair the local management committee, once he takes up his new role in Beijing in October.

Nicolas Aguzin, JPMorgan's Asia chief executive and chairman, said Mr Li's arrival demonstrated the bank's "commitment to China as a priority".

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JPMorgan's China business has drawn the attention of regulators in the US, who launched an investigation in August into whether the bank hired family members of influential members of the Chinese government – sometimes known as "princelings" – in order to win business.

Hiring specific individuals in such a manner to win contracts would violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has requested information from a number of banks, including UBS, as part of the investigation. JPMorgan has said it is co-operating with regulators, and has promised to overhaul its compliance procedures.

Since the probe was first announced, JPMorgan has withdrawn from two initial public offerings, while its former head of investment banking for China, Fang Fang, has retired. In May, Mr Fang was interviewed by Hong Kong authorities, who are also looking into bank hiring practices.

Neither JPMorgan or Mr Fang has been accused of any wrongdoing.

Mr Li will replace Shao Zili, who stepped down from the role in April to become vice-chairman of Asia Pacific for JPMorgan, and will report to Mr Aguzin.

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From 1976-80, Mr Li was a professional footballer in Shaanxi, before becoming vice-chairman of the All-China Student Federation. He studied physical education and law in Beijing, before attending Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, where he received an MBA.

His finance career began at Citicorp, where he spent seven years as a Wall Street trader and investment banker, and later worked at China Merchants, a Hong Kong-based logistics business.

In his previous role, Mr Li was also in charge of UBS Securities in China, one of the most successful foreign players in mainland markets.

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China's financial markets have been opening up amid a flurry of regulatory reform, which is expected to present a wide range of new opportunities in the country for foreign banks.