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(Bloomberg) — UBS Group AG (NYSE:) top economist Paul Donovan has returned to work more than three months after being put on leave because of a reference in his research to Chinese pigs that set off a storm of criticism in the Asian nation.
Donovan, chief economist at the global wealth management unit, was put on leave in mid-June after his remarks in a saga known as “swinegate” sparked outrage in China and were condemned by local rivals. Donovan stayed clear of controversial remarks in his opening note on Wednesday, which covered topics from trade taxes to Brexit and global bond yields.
A frequent commentator in financial media, Donovan set off a furor during a discussion of Chinese consumer prices, which had risen because a pig virus drove up pork costs. The situation mattered, he said, “if you are a Chinese pig. It matters if you like eating pork in China.” Social media commentators quickly condemned the first remark, interpreting it as a derogatory reference to local people rather than to ill swine.
Even as many English speakers viewed the phrasing as innocuous, it set off a firestorm on Chinese social media. The comment was condemned by two Communist Party publications and by trade groups representing Chinese brokerages.
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