The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) did not know about the HSBC tax allegations until media reports released details on Sunday, according to the watchdog's chief executive.
Earlier today, Martin Wheatley told the Commons Treasury Select Committee that no formal information regarding claims of tax evasion was passed on to the body. "I am not aware of a direct channel of information on this particular case,” he said.
According to the BBC and The Guardian, files released by a whistleblower in 2007 reveal how the Swiss private banking arm of the bank aided clients in hiding large sums of money from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
HMRC received the information in 2010, but apparently did not share it with the FCA. Wheatley was unaware of any requirement for the tax body to provide the information, however.
"I don't know if they have such an obligation," he told the committee, adding that the way HMRC decided to act "doesn't stop us doing our job".
A number of investigations are alerady being carried out by the FCA into the UK banking sector, including into HSBC.
HSBC takes responsibility
Soon after the allegations were made by the media, HSBC released a statement saying that although it had made mistakes in the past, the bank had “fundamentally changed”.
"We acknowledge that the compliance culture and standards of due diligence in HSBC's Swiss private bank, as well as the industry in general, were significantly lower than they are today," it said.
On Sunday, HMRC said it had already acted on the list of tax evaders passed on to it in 2010, and that more than £135m in tax, interest and penalties had already been paid by those who hid their assets.