Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Don't shoot the messenger! Financial Journal editor criticised for reporting the Shah -V- HSBC case too openly!

Sources  from inside the City are letting it be known that many bankers are very angry with the editor of Money Laundering Bulletin for his reporting of the recent case of Shah -v- HSBC. Not because it was inaccurate, but because it was altogether too truthful.
A close informant recently described to me how the reporting of the case in the prestigious and informed Journal, 'Money Laundering Bulletin', had heaped huge embarrassment on HSBC, when the actions of their Compliance Department with responsibility for preventing and forestalling money laundering, came to be minutely dissected in forensic detail by barristers acting for the claimant in the case.
The responsible officer concerned was subjected to a lengthy and searching period of cross examination, and it would not be unreasonable to say that his answers betrayed the fact that the practices and procedures applied to the systems and controls apparently in force at the time in the bank, were found to be lacking a certain degree of regulatory rigour.
The case was reported regularly by the Journal, in significant detail and much of the important questioning was reported verbatim.
Well, apparently this totally responsible attitude towards the reporting of a most important case has caused not a little disquiet among city practitioners who appear to think that to report a case in this way is not playing the game. Apparently they don't like the fact that HSBC's dirty washing was hung out for all to see, and presumably learn from!
This is so typical of the banking sector - they don't want their failures to be broadcast to the market place, presumably because it might give potential clients the right impression, that the institution concerned hasn't covered itself in glory in complying with its legal responsibilities.
However, the institutions have their own way of trying to deflect the attention from their own inadequacies. They fight back by marginalising those who have offended by snubbing them, or bringing pressure on others who might be in a position to influence the offender's conduct.
I once received a letter from some pompous City figure who resented an editorial I had written in an academic journal. He complained that my observations about endemic city fraud could only bring the city into disrepute, and demanded that I bring his letter to the attention of the financial backers of the Journal. He did so in the mistaken belief that his views would cause them to pressure me to tone down my observations in future. He was badly mistaken. I published his letter in the Journal, and invited him to write an article refuting the piece I had written, and promising to publish it as his right of reply. I never heard from him again.
But it doesn't stop the City from whining when they think they can influence outcomes they don't like.
Bob Diamond is quoted in today's Daily Telegraph saying:
“The way this situation was handled seems to us completely unwarranted. Unnecessary damage was placed on Barclays’ reputation just at a time when the focus should be rebuilding confidence and accelerating growth, not undermining it.”
Diamond was moaning about the reports which appeared in the press about Barclays' aggressive tax avoidance structuring back in February of this year.
Barclays Bank had been ordered by the Treasury to pay half-a-billion pounds in tax which it had tried to avoid. Barclays was accused by HM Revenue and Customs of designing and using two schemes that were intended to avoid substantial amounts of tax.
The government had taken the unusual step of introducing retrospective legislation to end such "aggressive tax avoidance" by financial institutions. The government had closed the schemes to retrieve £500m of lost tax and safeguard payments of billions of more tax in the future.
Barclays claimed that it had been surprised by HMRC's reaction to the two schemes, which it believed to be in line with those used by other banks. It was highly embarrassing for Barclays, because Britain's big banks have all signed a code committing them not to engage in tax avoidance.
This latest outburst by Diamond is merely par for the course when the big banks find themselves facing embarrassing situations.
If the financial institutions want to protect themselves from justified criticism by professional journals, then they can do so easily. Just obey the rules and regulations and make the money available to ensure that their staff can provide the necessary degree of compliance.
Trying to shoot the messenger just because they don't like the message, is the sign of a real loser!

No comments: