HSBC is considering moving its headquarters to the US — the country that fined the bank $US1.9 billion (£1.3 billion) for breaching money-laundering rules in 2012 — according to a report in the Financial Times.
The bank is reviewing whether or not to leave the UK, as it tries to cope with increasing regulatory and tax demands.
Hong Kong had been high on HSBC’s list of new homes but the Chinese government’s heavy-handed response to stock market crashes earlier this year may have made it less attractive.
HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint told the FT the bank was “about halfway through the review process and had “prepared the ground by giving presentations to the board on the various aspects, like the regulatory and economic framework, but we have not had any discussion of the relative merits.”
As a lobbying technique, threatening to leave the UK has been powerful. Banks have already won several big concessions from the Treasury and Bank of England on controversial new rules.
The Treasury watered down the so-called senior managers regime, which was designed to make top bankers prove they did everything they could to prevent bad conduct at their firm. The wording of the rule was changed from the “presumption” of guilt for executives to a “duty of responsibility.”
HSBC will have a hard time finding the perfect spot. While the US has a different accounting regime, which might make it easier for a big bank like HSBC to meet rules limiting the amount of debt that banks can take on, it take sanctions and money-laundering breaches very seriously.
Just this week Societe Generale said it will pay a $US787 million (£510 billion) fine and install an independent monitor to resolve charges it violated US sanctions on Iran, Sudan and Cuba.