HSBC Bonuses Hit After £1.2bn Fine

Mark Kleinman, City Editor
HSBC Bonuses Hit After £1.2bn Fine

HSBC's top executives are to defer a portion of any bonuses they are awarded for the next five years following the bank's £1.2bn fine for breaching money laundering rules in the US.

I have learned that the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) between HSBC and the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which will be published later today, will disclose details of fresh pay restrictions the bank is imposing on key staff.

The bonus deferrals, which will affect dozens of managers including Stuart Gulliver, HSBC chief executive, will be in addition to the clawing back of millions of pounds in past bonuses awarded to executives involved in HSBC's US operations.

The terms of the new remuneration arrangements will involve Mr Gulliver and his colleagues deferring the element of their bonuses relating to adherence to compliance rules for the full five-year term of the DPA.

However, Sky News understands that the bank's remuneration committee has not yet decided whether Mr Gulliver and others should waive in full any bonuses they are awarded for 2012 following the US settlement.

Mr Gulliver took charge of HSBC at the beginning of last year, long after the breaches of US laws including the Trading With The Enemy Act, took place.

Last year, compliance-related functions accounted for approximately 15% of the overall bonus pots handed out to HSBC executives.

A number of senior staff, including HSBC's chief compliance officer, the former chief executive of its US business and the bank's anti-money laundering director, have had parts of bonuses clawed back already. Sandy Flockhart, a former board member who oversaw HSBC’s Mexican operations, is also expected to have a substantial sum of money reclaimed by the bank.

It is questionable whether HSBC's shareholders will view these gestures as sufficient given that Barclays' top executives agreed to waive their bonuses in full following its settlement over Libor manipulation. Even that was not enough to save the jobs of Bob Diamond and Jerry del Missier, Barclays' chief executive and chief operating officer.

The agreement with US authorities, which was confirmed on Tuesday morning, represents a humiliating chapter in the history of HSBC, a bank that prided itself on remaining free from direct taxpayer support during the financial crisis of 2008.

The £1.2bn penalty represents about one-seventh of HSBC's annual profit in 2011.

A Senate hearing earlier this year disclosed a litany of failings within HSBC's Mexican operations, which effectively allowed the bank to be used as a haven for terrorist financiers and drug cartels.

Mr Gulliver said today: "We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again. The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organisation from the one that made those mistakes.

"Over the last two years, under new senior leadership, we have been taking concrete steps to put right what went wrong and to participate actively with government authorities in bringing to light and addressing these matters.

"While we welcome the clarity that these agreements bring, ensuring the highest standards wherever we do business is an ongoing process. We are committed to protecting the integrity of the global financial system. To this end we will continue to work closely with governments and regulators around the world."

HSBC also said that it would finalise an undertaking with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the bank's lead regulator, shortly.

I understand that this will include the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee HSBC's compliance function as the bank attempts to restore trust among its supervisors.

HSBC said that it had also spent nearly £200m on remedial measures to overhaul its compliance function.

The FSA, which declined to comment, is likely to announce its new supervisory measures alongside the statements from US regulators later today.