Minister: we had failures at HSBC, but I won't quit
Former chairman of bank insists he has no case to answer over money-laundering affair
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 25 July 2012
Lord Green, the Trade minister, has expressed regret over the "failures" at HSBC while he headed the bank.
But the former chairman and chief executive of HSBC insisted he had "no case to answer" over the money-laundering scandal and said he would not quit his government role. He admitted "failures of implementation" during his tenure but argued that a US Senate report showed he "took action" when issues were drawn to his attention.
The Conservative peer told Sky News: "HSBC has expressed regret for the failures of implementation. I share that regret. I wish that hadn't been the case. But it's a company I'm proud to have worked for because it's a company that has always sought to do the right thing, and when things have gone wrong... they worked hard to fix it."
Lord Green denied that the British banking industry is "corrupt", but said it was important to "learn the lessons" of the financial crisis and the Libor scandal. He defended his spell as chairman of the British Bankers' Association (BBA), which sets the Libor inter-bank lending rate. He claimed the BBA "acted appropriately to the emerging issues" and "strengthened" the governance of the system.
"To be very clear, the goings on in some institutions, where people are deliberately manipulating, that's unacceptable," he said.
Insisting he was "very focused on the upcoming few weeks" as business leaders from around the world travel to London for the Olympics, he said: "This will be the best business Games ever. This is a real opportunity in the crossroads of the world, which London in so many ways is, to showcase what Britain can do."
Labour claimed Lord Green had "totally failed" to answer its key questions about what he knew about the money-laundering allegations and what action he took. Chris Leslie, an opposition Treasury spokesman, renewed Labour's call for the Trade minister to make a statement in the House of Lords. He said: "It is right that Lord Green has now expressed regret for the failures of HSBC to prevent money laundering during his time as chief executive and chairman.
"As a British minister, an adviser to George Osborne on banking and a member of the cabinet committee on banking reform, he is accountable first and foremost to Parliament. He cannot and should not hide behind 'continuing discussions between HSBC and the US authorities' as a reason for failing to answer questions."
Mr Leslie has asked Lord Green about the alleged circumvention at HSBC of safeguards designed to block transactions to those with potential links to drug cartels , rogue regimes or terrorist organisations; what steps he took to mitigate circumstances where HSBC may have been disregarding terrorist financing links; and whether he voiced concerns about suspicious volumes of travellers' cheques.
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