Bank issues apology - 'We have fundamentally changed the way HSBC is run'

HSBC Canary Wharf close-up

HSBC has published a full-page advert containing an apology in several newspapers, over claims that its Swiss private bank helped clients evade tax.

Dear All,

For our many loyal customers, shareholders and hardworking colleagues, the recent media coverage about past practices at our Swiss Private Bank and the financial affairs of some of our Swiss Private Bank clients has been a painful experience.

We would like to provide some reassurance and state some of the facts that lie behind the stories. The media focus has been on historical events that show the standards to which we operate today were not universally in place in our Swiss operations 8 years ago. We must show we understand that the societies we serve expect more from us. We therefore offer our sincerest apologies.

We must put the recent media coverage into context. A former employee of the Swiss Private Bank stole data more than eight years ago. Major UK media outlets have focused on approximately 140 names included in the stolen data. Many of the people mentioned have no allegation of wrongdoing against them whatsoever but been named simply because they are well-known individuals. The vast majority of these 140 people are no longer clients. Several of them were exited long before the data was stolen. In fact, one was exited in 1991.

The media has been mentioning a number of 100,000 clients. At its peak, the Swiss Private Bank had about 30,000 accounts.

Since 2008, our Swiss Private Bank has been completely overhauled. Today, of the 140 clients named, 106 are no longer with the bank.

We would like you to know the following facts. In summary:

• Since 2008, we have fundamentally changed the way HSBC is run, and have established much tighter central control around who are our customers.

• HSBC has been putting in place tough, world-class financial crime, regulatory compliance and tax transparency standards, enforced by a team of over 7,000 compliance professionals.

• HSBC’s Swiss Private Bank has completely overhauled its business, cutting the number of accounts it has by nearly 70%.

• HSBC strongly supports government initiatives to exchange tax information. We implemented FATCA, the US tax information disclosure regime in 2014, and we are implementing the new global regime, the Common Reporting Standard, which is supported by 98 countries and comes into force from 2016.

Anybody who would like more information about the changes at our Swiss Private Bank can read the four-page summary we have published on our public website, the address is below.

We have absolutely no appetite to do business with clients who are evading their taxes or who fail to meet our financial crime compliance standards.

Thank you for taking some time to read this. We hope the facts above help answer some of the questions you may have.

Yours faithfully,

Stuart Gulliver

Group Chief Executive, HSBC Holdings plc

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