HSBC on hiring spree to beef up crime team

 
Tim Wallace
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HSBC yesterday hired more ex-regulators to set up a new unit to fight crime in a drive to show it is striving to clean up its tarnished image.

The bank paid fines totalling $1.9bn (£1.2bn) to settle accusations lax money laundering controls allowed drugs gangs and terrorists to funnel money through the institution.

Its new Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee will be made up of three non-executive directors and five external advisors, monitoring progress in tightening the system and identifying potential problems in compliance.

It will meet at least six to eight times per year, beginning in February, as well as responding to any specific risks that emerge.

The bank has hired former HM Revenue and Customs boss Dave Hartnett and former counter terrorism officer Nick Fishwick as well as ex-serious organised crime agency head Bill Hughes as advisers to the committee. Former US deputy attorney general James Comey is a non-executive board member.

As well as improving anti-money laundering controls and clamping down on terrorist and drug financing, the committee also plans to improve tax compliance and transparency.

That also covers tax avoidance, which the bank wants to cut down on to further restore its damaged image.

“The new committee, which will benefit from the experience of the expert advisers, will provide invaluable guidance and advice as we strengthen our capabilities and enforce the highest standards, in particular in relation to combating financial crime,” said chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

“The calibre, status and experience of the individuals reinforce once more how seriously we are taking this.”

PROFILE: DAVE HARTNETT

Dave Hartnett spent 36 years at HM Revenue and Customs, ending up as permanent secretary for tax and retiring last year. He has been recruited because of his deep knowledge of tax administration, after leading policy development in the area, as well as compliance and enforcement on international tax affairs. Hartnett’s experience also extends into the international arena. He was deputy chairman of the OECD’s forum on tax administration, and has supported developing countries in growing the capacity and capability of their tax departments.

But Hartnett’s career has not been without controversy – HMRC was accused of making sweetheart deals with big companies to reduce their tax bills on his watch. A National Audit Office report deemed those specific arrangements “reasonable,” arguing “the overall outcome for the exchequer was good,” but told the department to brush up its internal communications and to stick more closely to official rules. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing, Hartnett has been targeted by protestors.