Wednesday, August 15, 2012

HSBC Banker Sues Yahoo Singapore for Impostor’s Identity

Story first reported from Bloomberg News

Sandeep Sharma, a managing director at HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s private banking arm, claimed in a lawsuit he had been defamed by a Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) user impersonating him and making offensive remarks about Singaporeans.

Sharma asked Singapore’s High Court to order Yahoo! Asia Pacific Pte to reveal details including the identity of the person using the moniker “Sandeep” and claiming to be Sharma. A closed hearing is scheduled for today.

“Sandeep” made at least three posts in July on Yahoo’s websites disparaging Singaporeans including calling them “highly incompetent” and saying foreigners are Singapore’s future, according to a lawsuit filed on Aug. 8, the eve of the Southeast Asian city’s 47th National Day.

The complaint highlights tensions that have developed in Singapore between foreigners, who make up a third of the country’s 5.2 million population, and citizens whose anger over the influx contributed to the ruling party’s worst performance since independence in last year’s general election.

Yahoo hasn’t filed its response to the complaint. Yahoo’s Southeast Asia general counsel Siew Kum Hong referred questions to Madhavi Tumkur, the company’s spokeswoman, who didn’t respond to two e-mails and a phone call to her office.

Sharma, who filed a police report last month on the same matter, didn’t reply to two e-mails or return a call requesting comment. Gareth Hewett, a HSBC spokesman, declined to comment.

Foreign Talent

“The issue of foreign talent in Singapore is a touchy one,” Sharma, 44, said in court papers. “I believe these posts will lead to and excite continued ill-feeling and disaffection among Singaporeans to foreigners like me living and working in their midst.”

Sharma moved to Singapore from India in 2007 with his wife and two children and became a permanent resident the next year, he said in court papers. He joined HSBC as the head of Global South Asian Diaspora in March 2010 from Barclays Plc’s wealth management unit, where he was head of its South Asian business.

He doesn’t have a Yahoo account and has no suspects in mind, according to court papers.

At least one person has written to the London-based bank that he will not be a client because of the posts, according to court papers. HSBC’s requests to Yahoo to provide information about the user were rebuffed, according to the complaint.

User Data

“HSBC and Mr. Sharma are victims of this callous post by a person who evidently is happy to hide behind the screen of anonymity,” according to a July 6 e-mail to Yahoo from the bank’s legal adviser Jerome Robert cited in the complaint. “Yahoo can help in putting things right.”

Yahoo said it couldn’t reveal data related to its users unless there was a court or police order, the operator of the biggest U.S. Web portal said in a July 10 e-mail to HSBC and cited in the lawsuit.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong introduced stricter immigration policies and trimmed ministerial pay after his ruling People’s Action Party won the general election last year with the smallest-ever margin of popular votes.

The case is Sandeep Sharma v Yahoo! Asia Pacific Pte. OS750/2012. Singapore High Court.

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