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HSBC’s Gulliver set to face MPs on tax evasion

HSBC chief Stuart Gulliver will face MPs today to give evidence on claims its Swiss private banking arm helped clients evade taxes. Initially it was only the giant bank’s chairman Douglas Flint who had been summoned to the Treasury Select Committee for a 45-minute session. But now both bosses are attending parliament, and they will face MPs for two hours. After that grilling, HM Revenue and Customs bosses will have their turn in front of the parliamentarians.

On Monday, Gulliver admitted he felt “shame” over the wrongdoing in the Swiss unit, and Flint said it has an impact on staff who have to face friends and family when the bank is taking a public battering. The session will add to the pressure on the bank, which has faced a new wave of scrutiny and criticism since the publication of new data on the Swiss operation earlier this month. The government has also faced questions as HSBC’s chief at the time of the wrongdoing, Lord Green, was appointed as a trade minister in 2010. But a longer row developed over the timeline of the tax dodging, and when the current and previous governments first found out about the activities.

The bank bosses can expect questions on that timeline, on steps taken to clean up the Swiss private banking unit and on the wider culture of the bank. HSBC has been involved in other scandals, including breaking sanctions, failing to stop money laundering through its accounts, and PPI mis-selling.

HSBC also published its full-year financial results this week, and can expect to face questions on bonus payments. Although Gulliver was not the boss at the time of the Swiss wrongdoing and has taken a pay cut due to the forex benchmark manipulation, Lab­our politicians are still calling for him to lose more money. HMRC’s Lin Homer is also speaking to MPs. She can expect to be criticised for failing to prosecute more tax evaders identified in the HSBC documents.

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