HSBC appoints anti-crime advisers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 5:20am

HSBC, Europe's largest bank by value, has named former British tax chief Dave Hartnett to advise a new board committee created to tackle financial crime.

Bill Hughes, ex-head of Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, Juan Zarate, a former counter-terrorism adviser to the George W. Bush administration in the United States, and former British diplomat Nick Fishwick will also advise the bank, London-based HSBC said in a statement yesterday.

Chief executive Stuart Gulliver's attempts to reduce costs and improve profitability have been hurt by US investigations and by compensation claims from British clients.

A US Senate committee said in July that lax oversight by top HSBC executives gave terrorists and drug cartels access to the US financial system.

Its US$1.92 billion settlement last month to end probes into money laundering is the biggest of its type reached in the US.

The financial system vulnerabilities committee "will provide invaluable guidance and advice as we strengthen our capabilities", Gulliver said in the bank's statement.

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

The committee will provide guidance on anti-money-laundering systems and controls, tax transparency and preventing terrorist financing and drug financing, the bank said.

It named James Comey, a former US deputy attorney general, as a non-executive director and member of the committee, in a separate statement.

Hartnett, who was the top official at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, told parliamentarians in October 2011 he "made a mistake" in agreeing to forgive Goldman Sachs as much as £20 million (HK$244 million) in taxes.

The deal resulted in Goldman paying back taxes it owed on National Insurance payments for bankers' bonuses, while forgoing interest payments.