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Cleaning up the country club

The Philippine Stock Exchange has resisted previous attempts at reform. But this time it's different. A missionary's son is in charge of the clean-up. Tired of brokers' shenanigans, he has threatened to revoke the exchange's licence. So far, he has the upper hand. But for how long? Steven Irvine reports.

Perfecto Yasay readily admits to having been offered bribes. "Oh yes, lots of times," says the chairman of the Philippines Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). Some have even come from friends and family. "The secret is to make sure your price goes up to levels they cannot reach," he says with a smirk.

Yasay is the man seeking to reform what many consider unreformable - the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). In his personal crusade to clean up the exchange he is predicting at least one jail sentence for a broker before the year-end.

Yasay sits on the eighth floor of a building that until recently was condemned as structurally unsafe. Those who had written the building off were wrong and the exchange's brokers may feel this is an apt metaphor for the SEC itself. Long written off as toothless - in spite of its quasi-judicial powers - the regulator has been transformed by Yasay, who has sought to emulate his fiery counterparts in the US since he took over in 1995.

Yasay is the son of a missionary and his zeal for reform has if anything increased in recent months. Last month he announced that five brokers had been investigated for dishonest behaviour.

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