To promote its standing in China, JPMorgan Chase
turned to a seemingly obscure consulting firm run by a 32-year-old executive named Lily Chang. Ms. Chang’s firm, which received a $75,000-a-month contract from JPMorgan, appeared to have only two employees. And on the surface, Ms. Chang lacked the influence and public name recognition needed to unlock business for the bank.
But what was known to JPMorgan executives in Hong Kong, and some executives at other major companies, was that “Lily Chang” was not her real name. It was an alias for Wen Ruchun, the only daughter of Wen Jiabao
, who at the time was China’s prime minister, with oversight of the economy and its financial institutions.
JPMorgan’s link to Ms. Wen — which came during a time when the bank also invested in companies tied to the Wen family — has not been previously reported. Yet a review by The New York Times of confidential documents, Chinese public records and interviews with people briefed on the contract shows that the relationship pointed to a broader strategy for accumulating influence in China: Put the relatives of the nation’s ruling elite on the payroll.
And the Wen family’s sway was not just political. After Ms. Wen’s father joined the inner circle of China’s rulers as vice prime minister in 1998, the family amassed a secret fortune through a series of partnerships and investment vehicles, a 2012 investigation
by The Times found.
Now, United States authorities are scrutinizing JPMorgan’s ties to Ms. Wen, whose alias was government approved, as part of a wider bribery investigation into whether the bank swapped contracts and jobs for business deals with state-owned Chinese companies, according to the documents and interviews. The bank, which is cooperating with the inquiries and conducting its own internal review, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.