So regulators will be tough wherever HSBC goes...


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The Independent Online

Worried about one of the world’s biggest banks sniffing around for watchdogs that will give it an easier ride if it moves its headquarters? Well don’t be. Sir Jon Cunliffe, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, has told the BBC that a big global operation like HSBC – with a history of bad behaviour (money laundering, foreign exchange fixing, tax avoidance) – will face tough regulation wherever it goes.

So any decision will be taken purely on business grounds. Which is more or less what his boss Mark Carney had already intimated, although he didn’t name HSBC.

Here’s where that argument falls down. The bank has repeatedly cited regulation as one of the factors behind its decision to review the location of its headquarters. 

However, it doesn’t suit the watchdogs to admit that a big institution like HSBC feels able to look around the world in an attempt to find a regulatory system more to its liking.

Given its size, power and past conduct, this ought to disturb us. It ought to disturb the regulators, and it probably does. But the problem for Sir Jon, and for Mr Carney, is that it doesn’t seem they can do much about it. So they’re reduced to warning HSBC that it will find the going tough wherever it goes... and saying that doesn’t necessarily make it so.