HSBC boss says he is right person to fix bank

Gulliver faced more than two hours of hostile questioning at House of Commons

Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive of HSBC, leaves the Houses of Parliament.

Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive of HSBC, leaves the Houses of Parliament.

 

HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver said he was the right person to run Europe’s biggest bank and fix problems of the past after British lawmakers berated it for allowing “industrial-scale tax avoidance” at its Swiss arm.

Mr Gulliver faced more than two hours of hostile questioning from the lawmakers yesterday, along with a former head of HSBC’s private banking and one of its non-executive directors, over a tax evasion scandal that has rocked the bank.

The chief executive’s personal financial affairs have added further fuel to the row over whether the bank helped clients to dodge taxes after it emerged he had sheltered millions of pounds in HSBC’s Swiss private bank via a Panamanian company.

Mr Gulliver said that did not undermine his role. “I believe I am [the right person to be chief executive] because my tax affairs are in order and I have carried out widespread root-and-branch reforms of HSBC in the five years I have been group CEO,” he told the Public Accounts Committee.

He admitted scrutiny of his own affairs had damaged the bank, however.

Tax evasion

“My inability to convince anyone that these arrangements were not put in place for reasons of tax evasion have caused reputational damage to the bank. But the fact is I’ve complied with the tax laws,” he said.

HSBC has admitted failings in controls at its Swiss private bank following media reports that it helped wealthy customers to conceal millions of dollars of assets in a period up to 2007, but has said it has transformed its operations.

Argentina piled on more pressure yesterday, saying it wanted the bank to repatriate $3.5 billion (€3.2 billion) that it says it helped move offshore to help clients evade taxes.

– (Reuters)