HSBC chairman Douglas Flint publicly apologised to shareholders yesterday for the bank’s failings after it was fined £1.3 billion in December following a probe into its Mexican and stateside operations.
US regulators scathingly criticised HSBC’s lax financial controls that allowed two drug cartels to launder £582 million of dirty money through the bank.
“We were humbled and horrified to discover findings of such magnitude,” Flint told about 400 shareholders at HSBC’s shareholder AGM in London.
HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, was slammed by several shareholders for its mistakes in Mexico and accused of aiding tax avoidance.
Flint, who called for a speeding up of reform in the banking industry, said the bank was reviewing its operations in tax havens, and expected to significantly reduce the amount of business it does in them, although he stressed it was legitimate.
HSBC’s remuneration report was opposed by 11 per cent of shareholders. However, absentions meant that 15 per cent failed to back the boadroom payouts.
Chief executive Stuart Gulliver was paid £7.4m in 2012, down from £8m in 2011. The bank paid more than 200 staff £1m or more last year, including 78 in Britain. The board felt the wrath of TV’s Bill Oddie as the bank was accused of funding the desecration of forests.
The 71-year-old comic actor and naturalist raised concerns over links to firms operating in Borneo.
Oddie, who won fame in The Goodies, backs campaigners who say that HSBC is funding the destruction of rainforests by logging companies.
But despite his passionate rhetoric, Oddie appeared to be in the minority over the issue at the meeting, where he was heckled as he spoke.
HSBC said it requires those banking with it to operate “legally and sustainably to protect the environment and local people” and has stopped providing services to 68 clients for failing to meet its standards.
Gulliver urged Oddie to work with it to tackle the issue. He said: “Give us the chance to be a force for good.”