February 24, 2015 / 12:25 PM / 4 years ago

Swiss market regulator says unlikely to probe HSBC further

BERNE (Reuters) - Switzerland’s financial markets regulator FINMA is unlikely to look into possible wrongdoing at HSBC’s (HSBA.L) Swiss private bank in the light of leaked information that was published this month, FINMA’s head of enforcement said on Tuesday.

Workers carry out maintenance at a 'hole in the wall' cash dispenser at a branch of HSBC in London February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The publication of details on alleged tax evasion by some of the bank’s wealthy clients has prompted investigations by Geneva’s public prosecutor and British authorities, as well as a possible U.S. probe.

But FINMA, which already faulted HSBC in 2010-2011 for its poor internal controls and violations of money laundering guidelines, has said it was happy with the remedial action subsequently taken by the bank.

“In theory I can’t rule out that something may come up which prompts FINMA to look into it again. But I don’t expect that to happen,” FINMA’s David Wyss told a news conference.

Supervision of the financial market needs to be based on current problems, and the leaked information about HSBC related to 2006-2007, which was “light years” away, Wyss said.

But FINMA may still face political pressure to act, since a Swiss parliamentary committee has taken the unusual step of saying they want to question the watchdog about the HSBC case.

A spokesman for HSBC in Switzerland said its Swiss private bank had undergone a transformation in recent years and had implemented initiatives designed to prevent its banking services from being used to evade taxes or launder money.

FINMA has taken a far more public approach to sanctioning errant bankers under Mark Branson, who took over as head of the regulator on April 1 last year, and on Tuesday it published its first ever annual enforcement report, an attempt to make its actions more visible.

The report, which contained statistics and sample cases from 2014, also said FINMA would step up its actions against individuals who have seriously violated supervisory law.

FINMA said in October it had banned the former head of Coop Bank BC.S from management jobs in the finance sector for three years after the retail bank was found to have manipulated its own shares.

Reporting by Oliver Hirt, writing by Tom Miles, additional reporting by Joshua Franklin, editing by Louise Heavens and Jane Merriman

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