China's shortcut to Wall Street

NEW YORK - A spate of spectacular collapses of Chinese stocks listed on American exchanges has cost U.S. investors billions of dollars. The fiasco has sparked multiple investigations. Accusations are swirling in Washington and Beijing. It all began with an email sent out of the blue a decade ago to a Texas businessman named Timothy Halter. The email came from Shanghai native Zhihao "John" Zhang. The former medical student introduced himself and asked: Was Halter interested in helping bring Chinese companies to the U.S. stock market? Zhang proposed using a backdoor method that the Texan had mastered for American firms: buying dormant shell companies listed on U.S. exchanges. Soon, Halter and Zhang brought two Chinese firms to market in America: a manufacturer of power-steering systems and a maker of vitamins, weight-loss supplements and household cleaners