News Release

HSBC Scandal: Why Did DOJ Ignore Whistleblower?


“60 Minutes” reports in “The Swiss Leaks“: “The largest and most damaging Swiss bank heist in history doesn’t involve stolen money but stolen computer files with more than 100,000 names tied to Swiss bank accounts at HSBC, the second largest commercial bank in the world. A 37-year-old computer security specialist named Hervé Falciani stole the huge cache of data in 2007 and gave it to the French government. It’s now being used to go after tax cheats all over the world. ’60 Minutes’, working with a group called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, obtained the leaked files. They show the bank did business with a collection of international outlaws: tax dodgers, arms dealers and drug smugglers — offering a rare glimpse into the highly secretive world of Swiss banking.”

JAMES HENRY, jhenry at, @submergingmkt
Henry is former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. He is now senior fellow at the Columbia University Center for Sustainable International Investment and senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network, which last year in their report “The Price of Offshore Revisited,” estimated that total wealth in tax havens was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

Now an investigative journalist, Henry is featured in the film “We’re Not Broke,” which tells the story of U.S. corporations dodging billions of dollars in income tax and is available on Netflix.

He said today: “HSBC got off with a $1.9 billion fine for sanctions busting and money laundering in 2012, but only a $12 million fine from the SEC related to this tax dodging. And no bankers have gone to jail anywhere — except some of the whistleblowers themselves.

“The U.S. Department of Justice might have brought Hervé Falciani — the whistleblower behind these revelations — to the U.S. as a whistleblower and prosecuted the bank, but it failed to. And the new Attorney General-Designate, Loretta E. Lynch actually handled the HSBC case. Switzerland actually tried to extradite Falciani when he went to Spain.” See the Guardian piece “U.S. government faces pressure after biggest leak in banking history.”

James added: “These bankers are too big to fail and too big to jail, so they just keep engaging in illegal activity. There’s a widespread pattern of using fines to penalize the top 20 global big banks — $247 billion since 1998, for 655 separate major infractions of all kinds. But they just pass along the costs and continue with business as usual, with client secrecy preserved. It’s like a criminal syndicate.

“In contrast, during the Savings and Loan crisis, 880 bankers went to jail. This was under President George H. W. Bush. In contrast, Obama has been feckless.

“In part, these bankers have gotten off the hook because of how well connected they are to political figures: The former chairman of HSBC, the Right Reverend Stephen Keith Green (he really is a reverend) was named trade minister by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Robert Wolf, former head of UBS Americas, has been a huge friend and fundraiser of Obama’s founder of ’32 Advisors,’ and his consulting firm hired Austan Goolsbee, who was chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Credit Suisse paid John Podesta’s (counsel to the president) lobbying firm $1.3 million and hired Covington & Burling, the former law firm of Attorney General Holder. Obama’s IRS chief counsel — who’s in charge of whistleblowers! — William Wilkins, was a regulatory representative for the Swiss Bankers Association.”