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FCA to investigate HSBC tax evasion allegations

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The Financial Conduct Authority is to investigate charges that HSBC helped wealthy clients evade taxes.

The FCA had previously refused to comment on speculation that it was investigate allegations the bank routinely advised clients to divert wealth into Swiss bank accounts. However, today, the Authority announced today that it has initiated an inquiry.

Last week, details of thousands of wealthy HSBC clients suspected of evading taxes were leaked to the press. In response, the UK Treasury Committee summoned HSBC chair Douglas Flint to give evidence on February 25th; the US Securities & Exchange Commission also announced its intention to launch an inquiry.

However, even if HSBC is found to have behaved improperly in this instance, the FCA lacks the power to take action; misconduct by the firm’s Swiss arm would have occurred outside the reaches of the FCA’s jurisdiction.

Last weekend, HSBC took out full-page ads in the tabloid and broadsheet press, apologising for the fiasco and claiming it had both reformed its policies and significant downsized its Swiss operations.

HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver also wrote to all HSBC staff, praising the workforce for “working tirelessly and with great dedication”, and stating he shared their “frustration” over recent developments.

“The controversy has served to reinforce the importance of firms operating with the right culture across all of their operations,” an FCA spokesperson said in a statement. “The FCA is working closely with the firm and other agencies which have an interest in this matter to ensure that any questions this may raise in relation to any current practices and culture of HSBC are addressed.”




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