Douglas Flint, the chairman of HSBC, put his finger on it when under scrutiny by the Treasury Select Committee last week: “I don’t feel that proximate to what was happening in the private bank (at Geneva)”. He felt ‘very ashamed’, but not enough to forfeit past bonus payments in response.
He was finance director when HSBC took over the Swiss bank subsidiary but tried to wash his hands of any responsibility by blaming the scandal of the local managers in Geneva. He argued that secrecy surrounding Swiss banking made it hard to have a direct line of sight of what was happening at the bank. So what is the point of having board directors in London supposedly governing the whole HSBC enterprise if they can’t prevent, have no knowledge of, major corruption at a foreign subsidiary? Even when the horrors of what went on at the Swiss bank are fully pointed out, he makes no apology about his own failings, but merely passes the buck. Continue reading
The revelations of greed and cynical immorality, with the ex-clergyman Lord Green topping the bill, keep pouring out of this HSBC Swiss bank scandal, one of the biggest of the last few decades since this is probably only the tip of the iceberg on bank wrongdoing in this no-holds-barred era of crooked capitalism.
The facts are now indisputable. After the French IT specialist who hacked into the accounts of 130,000 wealthy clients, fled with the evidence and handed it over to French tax investigators in December 2008, the French then handed a reconstructed UK version of the data to HMRC in May 2010, precisely the month when power changed hands to the Tories. Green, who had been chief executive of HSBC from 2003-6 and then its chairman till 2010, was almost immediately given a peerage and then persuaded by Cameron to become a Tory trade minister. This leaves several questions to be answered: Continue reading
In a pre-election party political broadcast called the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor was at pains to tell us that his ‘long-term economic plan’, which he echoed 15 times like a demented obsessive perhaps to cover up that he doesn’t actually have one, was firmly on track. The economy had been saved from ruin and was now on its way to prosperity. It was like a surreal dream.
But one area of this magnificent future that he chose not to mention was the state of the finance sector, always the most dangerous and potentially explosive sector in a capitalist economy. Hardly surprisingly since the Tories get more than half their income each year from the banking and shadow banking (hedge funds, money market funds, etc.) systems and the whole finance sector remains wide open to abuse. Of course that will never be admitted, least of all by Osborne who likes to regale us with another of his canards that there has been a major clean-up exercise since the crash in 2008. There hasn’t. Continue reading
The Chancellor’s response to the £1.1bn windfall handed to him by the fine on the banks is a classic in Osborne double-speak. We’re told the money will be “used for the wider public good”. He means tax cuts as an electoral bribe. He says “today we take action to clean up corruption by a few so that we have a financial system that works for everyone”.
Today? Why not when the corrupt manipulation of the £3.5 trillion a day foreign exchange markets was uncovered years ago? “Taken action to clean up corruption”? – almost nothing has been done to prevent another banking crash and the foreign exchange market remains, breathtakingly, unregulated. “Corruption by a few”? – the truth is the whole industry was (and still largely is) rotten to the core as the chatroom exchanges between the traders of all the main banks clearly reveal.
“A financial system that works for everyone”? – one can only wonder at Osborne’s gall in spitting out a lie with such bravado, which he knows is a lie, and probably knows too that everyone else knows it’s a lie. The bankers’ bonuses, overseas speculation, contrived tax avoidance, and mortgaging of prime property in central London works works in no-one’s interests except their own. Continue reading
The banks: how am I here again? Standing outside RBS, Paul Mason asks why action is not taken against crooked bankers. They plead not to over-regulate them, not to imprison them or they won’t be able to recruit the talented people they need. Talented at what, you may ask. Ripping off their costomers? Certainly not providing the capital to invest in the growth we’re crying out for.
Video credit: Channel 4 News