Tony Tan’s track record at Government of Investment Corporation (GIC) has been a disaster. According to the Wall Street Journal, during his time as Deputy Chairman, GIC lost approximately $42 billion.
In January 2008, just when investors are shorting U.S. banks, Tony Tan spent billions of dollars of Singapore taxpayers’ monies to invest in Citigroup and UBS.
To justify his reckless actions, Tony Tan said in an interview with the Business Times, “In the case of UBS, they have a worldwide global wealth management business which is something not replicable by any bank. Citigroup has an international worldwide consumer business which is also unique.”
At the time, Jim Rogers, a former partner of George Soros in the famed Quantum Fund, said he felt “sad” for Singapore as it would be losing a lot of money.
Rogers continued, “They’re making a big mistake; these banks have many more problems still ahead. They should wait until these companies are really on the ropes a few years from now . . . and trading at $5 a share.”
Rogers also expressed doubts about the capability of GIC’s fund managers, including Tony Tan, “I know these people, and they have never given me the impression that they’re smarter than anyone else…They have gigantic amounts of money, but they’ve made a bad judgment in these cases.”
A few months later, the value of GIC’s shares in Citigroup and UBS crashed after both got mired in toxic debts during the 2008 global financial crisis.
The news was naturally censored by the Singapore media, but the Wall Street Journal reported that GIC suffered a loss around 59 billion Singapore dollars (US$41.6 billion) in 2008, making it one of the worst years for the sovereign wealth fund since it was established in 1981.
Now, Tony Tan is Singapore’s president.