Lord Green can’t get out of this HSBC grilling

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They seek him here, they seek him there … the former HSBC gaffer, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, might be described as the scarlet pimpernel of banking.

Since the furore over the leaked HSBC files earlier this year, Green has successfully eluded any serious questioning. His successors as chief executive and chairman, Stuart Gulliver and Douglas Flint, were left to apologise in his place.

But the long arm of the Lords will be feeling Green’s ermine-lined collar on Tuesday, when Labour peer Clive Hollick, chair of the upper house’s economic affairs committee, has invited him to have his say at a genteel-sounding session on “banking culture”.

No one expects the kind of dressing-down meted out by the MP Margaret Hodge to Green’s former colleagues, but Hollick has promised to bring up the money laundering in Mexico and the tax dodging in Switzerland. After all, Green was at the helm during much of the misbehaviour that plunged the bank into a political and legal crisis, before sailing over to the House of Lords in 2010 to become David Cameron’s first trade minister.

His mantra has been that, “as a matter of principle”, he “will not comment on the business of HSBC, past or present”. HSBC has confirmed that its former boss was not bound by any confidentiality clause. Perhaps Green, an ordained lay minister in the Church of England, will now see fit to set this particular principle aside.

Skepta raps up the US ... for Sports Direct

It sounds improbable, but according to at least one retail expert, Sports Direct is “the most fashionable shop in the UK right now”. British grime star Skepta has apparently been breaking America swathed in Sports Direct swag, turning his nose up at conventional US rapper brands like Louis Vuitton. He wears T-shirts with the SD logo onstage, looking, in his own words, “like some Asbo kid and shocking people”.

The new fashion credentials of Mike Ashley’s discount sports chain are reaching the bottom line. For a lucky 2,500 Sports Direct workers, this means a bonus pot worth on average £70,000 each is about to pay out. Full-year results on Thursday should confirm that the last profits target has been more than met.

As part of an incentive scheme that began in 2011, earnings this year must reach £300m. The company forecasts £360m, and analysts agree. RBC has just upgraded shares to “outperform”, its second-highest recommendation.

But the majority of staff are still on zero hours and bosses have yet to settle a claim from 300 people excluded from bonuses because they were tied to the controversial contracts. Sports Direct may no longer be the City’s Asbo kid, but it is still growing up.

Overcrowding on Carne’s rail journey

A tube strike was a fitting way to mark Sir Peter Hendy’s departure as London transport commissioner, ready for his first week as chairman of Network Rail. But if Hendy looked to be the big new broom to help sweep floundering chief executive Mark Carne in the right direction, the growing crowd of transport grandees threatens to overwhelm the former oilman in the boardroom.

Nicola Shaw, the boss of HS1, is the latest to join the melee with a brief to sort out Network Rail’s finances and structure. Hendy himself is supposed to be tackling its five-year “plan” – one that looks increasingly like a back-of-the-envelope builder’s quote – to see what other rail work needs scrapping to come in under budget. Richard Brown, a friend of transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, has been appointed as a special director – aka the government’s spy inside Network Rail. And on top of that, Dame Colette Bowe, a non-executive board member at the Department for Transport, will be spending the summer finding out just how the railway chiefs got their numbers so wrong.

Carne could be forgiven for feeling hotter under the collar than in his Gulf oilfields of old. But he is resilient and an optimist: last week he outlined how he wanted to speed up plans for a digital railway to arrive by 2029 – so he can be around to see it.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Juliette Garside, for The Observer on Sunday 12th July 2015 09.00 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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