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Spotlight on: Irene Dorner, chief executive, HSBC North America


"Spotlight on" is right.

Indeed. HSBC's North American supremo can expect a harsh interrogation from members of Congress today when she appears before a Senate committee.

What's she accused of?

Nothing personally, but the lawmakers are using HSBC as what they call a "case study" on "US vulnerabilities to money laundering, drugs, and terrorist financing".

Youch. I wouldn't want to be a case study for that.

No. It's a very sorry episode for HSBC, and Ms Dorner's boss, Stuart Gulliver, has told her to adopt the grovelling position. "We failed to spot and deal with unacceptable behaviour," he wrote in an internal memo preparing for the hearing.

So what happened?

Mexico's bloody drug cartels are believed to have used HSBC to launder money, through the bank's relationships with socalled "casas de cambio", local currency exchanges used to send money abroad. The Justice department is investigating whether HSBC's failure to impose proper checks amounts to negligence.

This predates Ms Dorner, right?

She has been in the US since 2010, and got the top North America job last autumn, so she's clean.

How will she fare under the swinging Congressional light bulb?

We'll see. She is one of the bank's rising stars, so a good performance could put her in a strong position as a potential successor to Mr Gulliver.

Oh yes?

Ms Dorner is celebrating 30 years with the bank, and she has come a long way since joining as a lawyer for Midland Bank (which was taken over by HSBC). She had just graduated St Anne's College, Oxford, with a degree in jurisprudence, but it is a long time since she has done any lawyering, having since run marketing, treasury and the whole of the Malaysian business for the bank. But she'll be flexing that legal brain today, that's for sure.