BY JIM DOOLEY – Peter Hsieh, the newly-hired head of enforcement in the state office that regulates financial securities, has been demoted following news stories in Hawaii Reporter about his serious personal financial problems, the state said today.

Brent Suyama, spokesman for the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, said an investigation of Hsieh is ongoing.

Since the demotion, Hsieh “is doing research,” said Suyama.

“He’s not in charge of any cases,” Suyama said.

Hsieh (pronounced Shay) did not disclose to DCCA authorities that he filed bankruptcy last year, listing some $900,000 in tax and child support debts.

A former business associate, lawyer Joseph Huster, filed a civil fraud complaint against Hsieh in bankruptcy court in late February, after the state hired Hsieh as chief enforcement attorney in the DCCS securities division.

Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Hsieh for mishandling client trust fund accounts in his private law practice in 2006.

Hsieh blamed those problems on his bookkeeper, according to public records.

Hsieh disclosed the reprimand before DCCA hired him February 13 for the securities post, Director Keali’i Lopez told Hawaii Reporter late last month.

But Lopez didn’t know about Hsieh’s tax and child support debts or the fraud allegation until questioned about them early this month April by Hawaii Reporter.

“We are extremely concerned and we have begun our own internal investigation,” Lopez said through Suyama April 5.

Hsieh declared personal bankruptcy last year, stating that he owed more than $600,000 to the IRS and more than $146,000 in state tax arrearages. Hsieh bankruptcy

Hsieh also reported that he owed his ex-wife $141,000 for unpaid child support, education and medical coverage obligations.

Hsieh was discharged from bankruptcy earlier this year and some of his tax debts are believed to have been forgiven.

But other tax debts are covered by liens filed against him and he is obligated to pay them. Child support debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

The fraud complaint filed by Huster is pending. Hsieh has denied the allegation.

Hsieh has been a litigation attorney for 30 years. The duties of securities enforcement chief include oversight of four attorneys and seven investigators.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com