After China’s fake Rolex - now there’s a fake Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing has been using a nearly identical English and Chinese name as the US financial institution

China has been accused of pirating movies, handbags, Rolexes -- even cars. Add Goldman Sachs to the list.

Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Co. has been operating in the city just across the border from Hong Kong using a nearly identical English and Chinese name as the New York-based financial institution, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. It claims on its website to be one of the city’s largest financial leasing firms.

A receptionist answering the phone at the Shenzhen company who declined to give her name said it’s not affiliated with the US bank and wouldn’t offer how it got its name, emphasizing it includes Shenzhen. It’s the first time she’s been asked the question, she said.

A filing with the Shenzhen government indicates the company has been operating since May 2013. The company uses the same Chinese characters, gao sheng, as the real Goldman Sachs, and its English font is evocative of the US bank’s.

Connie Ling, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, confirmed there are no ties between the US investment bank and the Shenzhen company and said Goldman is looking into the matter.

It’s not the only bank facing brazen name-borrowing. In a more extreme example, a 39-year-old man in eastern China’s Shandong province was arrested earlier in August after setting up a fake branch of China Construction Bank, including card readers, teller counters and signs, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Shenzhen’s Goldman Sachs came to light through a letter sent by a US casino workers union to Chinese officials. The International Union of Operating Engineers said it sent a letter to Wang Qishan, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is spearheading the biggest anti-corruption crackdown in decades.

The Shenzhen Goldman Sachs’s website was inaccessible as of Wednesday, though it could be viewed in screen grabs captured by the union. “There have been quite a few cases where Chinese individuals or organizations have registered in China the trademark of an existing and established overseas brand,” Paul Haswell, a Hong Kong-based partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said in an e-mail.

If history is any guide, Goldman doesn’t have much chance of changing its Shenzhen doppelganger. Basketball legend Michael Jordan lost a case against a Chinese sportswear company that used the Chinese version of his name. Apple Inc. paid $60 million to settle a trademark dispute with a Chinese company that had applied to block the sale of iPad computer tablets in 2012. “It’s notoriously difficult for an overseas claimant to persuade the Chinese courts that there has been trademark infringement,” said Haswell. “There’s still a practice of whoever registers first wins.”