UBS puts its chief economist on leave following outrage over ‘Chinese pig’ comment

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UBS

  • Paul Donovan, UBS’s chief global economist, was placed on leave from his role on Thursday for a comment he made about Chinese pork.
  • Donovan is a British economist that’s been with the Swiss bank for more than 26 years and regularly comments on macroeconomic trends.
  • UBS shares were down more than 1% Friday afternoon.
  • Watch UBS trade live.

UBS placed Paul Donovan, its chief global economist, on leave Friday morning in attempt to resolve backlash stemming from a comment he made about Chinese pork.

Donovan was discussing rising Chinese pork prices due to a deadly pig virus on his podcast earlier this week.

“It matters if you are a Chinese pig,” Donovan said. “It matters if you like eating pork in China.”

“Pig” is considered a derogatory remark in China, and some thought Donovan’s statement was referencing Chinese people as opposed to actual sick pigs. UBS and Donovan issued an apology and his podcast was removed from circulation.

Donovan went back on Bloomberg TV on Friday morning to apologize again.

“I apologize for anyone who took any offense from my remarks, which were clearly not intended to offend,” Donovan said. “I got it wrong. I made a mistake and I unwittingly used hugely culturally insensitive language.”

The Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong also sent a letter to UBS calling to fire Donovan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The controversy comes at a difficult time for UBS, which was an early entrant to the Chinese market. The firm has recently ramped up efforts to attract more money from wealthy Asians.

UBS is now down roughly 7% so far this year.

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