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Issue #1682      April 29, 2015

HSBC’s “political blackmail”

BRITAIN: Scandal-hit HSBC was accused of pre-election blackmail after threatening to relocate its headquarters abroad if Britain considers pulling out of the European Union.

The banking giant is considering escaping regulation after being hit by levies that cost the group a combined £860 million in the past two years after crackdowns of money laundering and foreign exchange rigging.

Chairman Douglas Flint told the HSBC group’s annual general meeting last week that the potential move is in response to “regulatory and structural reforms” in the wake of the financial crisis that first erupted in 2008.

The threat to move to a more accommodating country comes after the Tory manifesto recently stipulated that a referendum into the country’s EU membership would be held.

Two campaigners protested outside the HSBC meeting dressed as bankers holding swag bags and champagne bottles next to an Only Fools and Horses-style Robin Reliant carrying the words: “Tax dodgers, crooked traders, HSBC.”

One investor, Michael Mason-Mahon, asked in the meeting: “Which country are you likely to go to? How many countries have you not committed illegal and criminal behaviour in?”

Mr Flint, who had apologised for “unacceptable” activities, replied that it was “essential that we position HSBC in the best way to support the markets and customer bases critical to our future success.”

Secretary of the Scottish Campaign Against Euro Federalism John Foster said that Britain’s membership of the EU only benefits banking fat cats and not workers.

“HSBC wants the City of London to remain a lightly regulated base from which to control financial services in the EU. It was precisely this type of relationship that precipitated the financial crisis,” he said.

“It continues to suck savings out of the real economy and subordinate Britain to neo-liberal EU regulations. Working people would be better off outside the EU and with banking under public control.”

And the threat seems to have worked in putting fear into Tory Chancellor George Osborne, who said: “If we proceed in this country with an anti-business set of policies we are going to drive companies abroad, we are going to see jobs lost.”

HSBC, which originated in Hong Kong, took over Midland Bank in Britain in 1992 and shifted its headquarters to London.

Morning Star

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