The chief executive of Wharf-based bank HSBC has insisted he is the right person to lead the Wharf-based bank after he was grilled by MPs over his own tax affairs.
Stuart Gulliver, and other executives at the bank, faced an uncomfortable session in front of the Commons Public Accounts committee to answer questions over its Swiss private bank which help clients avoid income tax.
Mr Gulliver, who said he has led major reform of the scandal hit banking giant, told MPs he paid all his tax obligation now, although the committee quizzed him on a bank account set up by a company in Panama through which he had funnelled £5million 17 years ago.
Mr Gulliver said: “I can see how you might see some inconsistency, but I think you are being a bit harsh. There was no tax evasion, no avoidance. It was simply done for privacy reasons. I have paid millions of pounds of tax at the top rate.”
Asked if he was the right man to lead the recovery of the bank’s “reputational damage” he said: “I believe I am because my tax affairs are in order and I have carried out root and branch reforms to HSBC in the five years I have been chief executive.”
Any questions about his future would be “a matter for the board”, he said.
Mr Gulliver had already apologised in a separate hearing before MPs for “unacceptable” activities at the unit.
Meanwhile, Rona Fairhead, the BBC Trust chairwoman who serves as non-executive director on the bank’s board, came under intense attack from committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge.
Ms Fairhead denied knowledge of the Swiss bank’s operation provoking Mrs Hodge to respond: “I don’t think that the record that you have shown in your performance here as a guardian of HSBC gives me the confidence that you should be the guardian of the BBC licence fee payers’ money.
“I really do think that you should consider your position and you should think about resigning and if not, I think the government should sack you.”