Comments: Statement on the work of Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint

"The Church of England’s opposition to tax evasion or aggressive tax management strategies remains firm."

Does anyone know how the Church is defining "aggressive" tax management strategies? I'm sure we can all think of examples that are clearly acceptable, or unacceptable, but where does the Church's opposition begin and end?

Tax evasion (being illegal) should clearly be opposed, but tax avoidance is not illegal, even in its "aggressive" forms. In opposing legal activities we really ought to be able to define clearly what the Church thinks is acceptable and what isn't.

Posted by Richard at Friday, 13 February 2015 at 4:50pm GMT

This says precisely nothing. It is established (Guardian passim, all this week) that SG was in charge of HSBC's private banking division for part of the material time, and group chair for another part; also that he wrote in his inspirational writings on the Christian in business that the buck stops with the board, which must take responsibility for everything that goes on. On both counts I am afraid he is fatally tainted.

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 13 February 2015 at 5:24pm GMT

As an ordained priest should he not stand aside until matters are clearer. No doubt he had no direct involvement but the point is that as CEO he has to take responsibility for what is alleged to have happened. This is what management is about - taking responsibility. Sound managers make it their business to find out what actually happens - that is why they are paid huge sums. Surely if failures of a serious nature happened on his watch, what on earth is the Church doing relying on his report which itself may be seriously flawed. You are both leaders of the Church and decisions are required not platitudes

Posted by Peter Griffiths at Friday, 13 February 2015 at 8:25pm GMT

If allegations of financial impropriety were made against another priest, there would be a high likelihood of suspension under the CDM until the matter had been investigated and resolved. As it stands, the archbishops are saying tax evasion is a wicked thing; but the man overseeing HSBC while it encouraged this practice is a good thing because has been useful in producing a report that is, at best, questionable in its thesis and method. And we wonder why no-one is taking us seriously any more. No wonder we're on target to be decimated by 2057.

Posted by Tom Marshall at Friday, 13 February 2015 at 8:51pm GMT

Laughter seems an appropriate response.

Posted by John at Friday, 13 February 2015 at 8:58pm GMT

The Financial Times has carried two stories about this, the latest published this evening, which can be found here
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2b0f78b8-b387-11e4-a45f-00144feab7de.html#axzz3Rf3Q4eCk
and then here
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/821c63e6-b3a5-11e4-a6c1-00144feab7de.html#axzz3Rf3Q4eCk

registration is required. But both of these reports contain a claim which differs from what is in the press release, viz.

The statement added the report stood “on its own merits” and had been completed “before anyone knew of the historic allegations against HSBC at the time Lord Green was either CEO or executive chair”.

“The report was completed and submitted before anyone knew of the historic allegations against HSBC at the time Lord Green was either CEO or executive chair,” the statement said.

This is clearly not a true statement, and yet it appears (twice) in the Financial Times.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 13 February 2015 at 9:48pm GMT

I appreciate that the Church feels that trifling details re anything short of "aggressive tax management strategies" need not concern it, or us, but perhaps it could explain why it regards money laundering the profits of Mexican drug cartels as not even worthy of comment, much less condemnation.

The Financial Times article of 9th February has a helpful timeline of HSBC's activities:

ft.com/cms/s/0/28c5744a-b03f-11e4-92b6-00144feab7de.html#axzz3RfRako

'In June 2003 Stephen Green, formerly responsible for private banking, takes over as HSBC group chief executive.

May 2006 Mr Green becomes HSBC chairman.

July 2007 HSBC's senior manager of group compliance warns that the anti-money laundering committee in Mexico is "not functioning properly" '.

I interject to note that this was something of an understatement. Moving forward to 2010 both the US Senate and the US Comptroller of the Currency were investigating those deficiencies, and finally in December 2012

'HSBC signs five-year deferred prosecution agreement with US authorities after admitting that it processed drug-trafficking proceeds through Mexico and transferred funds from sanctioned countries including Iran.'

It also paid $1.9 billion in settlement of civil and criminal penalties:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20673466

As the timeline reveals the bulk of the money laundering took place whilst Stephen Green was at the helm, and the information from 2010/11 onwards was freely available in the media to anyone who bothered to look.

The Church is still studiously averting its gaze, presumably in the hope that no-one will notice; I suspect that even now those approving the press releases lack any appreciation of just how dreadful this is...


Posted by Stevie Gamble at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 1:14am GMT

The Church may be studiously averting its gaze but according to the FT business isn't and its leaders are wary of appearing on the same platform as Lord Green.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 10:08am GMT

Iain McClean is right. This is flim-flam designed to shut people up.

The trouble with the Green report and the way it has been handled is, to my mind, cultural as much as anything else. The report is done and produced without anyone being informed. The money to implement it is secured in such a way that Synod does not need , and is not permitted to discuss it and vote on it. It is unashamedly elitist. Now Lerd Green is going to be defended to the hilt.

The point is that the report he produced will not stand on its own merits - it is not open to scrutiny or criticism that could possibly halt its implementation. Moreover, you can't isolate a report from its author like that. If his judgement as chair of HSBC's private banking division was suspect because of what was going on there at the time, and if now he is trying to evade all scrutiny of his part in what happened in complete contrast to the way he says the most senior managers should lead and take responsibility, then it surely raises significant questions about how prudent it is to take his "contribution and expertise".

Combine this with the rumblings from synod about how people were talked down to and silenced and one gets the feeling that all of this is worringly about a combination of establishment, money, power, posh people who know other posh people, PLU (people like us), old school tie, and that deadly sense of entitlement that cannot bear to be asked to account for the way things are being done. It is as far from an open and accountable church that celebrates and uses the gifts of all as one could imagine.

If anyone really thinks that reports like this and the behaviour that has surrounded it and its author are going to stop haemmorhaging numbers in the Church of England then they are deluded.

I know the talk is all of mission. But I wonder why there is not more effort put into finding out why people have left and what it would take to get them back? I rather suspect it is because to do so would require real change in ways that our current leadershp don't want, and that is too much for them to stomach.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 10:19am GMT

So we're not to bring a case under the Clergy Discipline Measure then?

Posted by ExRevd at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 10:56am GMT

Sincere thanks both to Simon and Stevie Gamble. How appropriate that our archbishops should be advocates of the leadership principles of the Reverend Stephen Green (C of E).

Posted by John at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 11:37am GMT

I'm interested that Prebendary the Lord Green's business colleagues are alleged to be wary of appearing on the same platform as him. I wonder about his Prebendal colleagues at St Paul's Cathedral? It would also be interesting to be reminded who appointed him to this honorary position and for what reason?

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 12:55pm GMT

The Reverend Prebendary Lord Green was appointed to his stall in St Paul's by Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London. Always one to cosy-up to the evangelicals, the appointment was made, interestingly, during a decanal interregnum. Don't imagine for one minute that his Lordship is in any way exercised by the allegations about the other Lordship's activities at HSBC. He famously "never reads the papers" and will carry on regardless until the whole thing dies down. "Ignorance is bliss, beloved"!

Posted by David Gibson at Saturday, 14 February 2015 at 8:41pm GMT

I hesitate to think it and am reluctant to speak it but that much abused word "taint" comes to mind when I read this statement.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 6:26am GMT

In the end it boils down to HSBC being too big to fail no matter what has transpired so far let alone what may be revealed in the course of time; likewise Stephen Green is too big to be allowed to fail in the eyes of the archbishops. This is the establishment hard at work.

Posted by Peter Griffiths at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 3:42pm GMT

Take my life

Take my wealth, Lord, let it be
Tax efficient Lord for me;
Take my praise, Lord, hear my thanks
For good advice from crooked banks


Take my dollars and my yen,
- Taxes are other men;
Of cash I have a huge amount
Hidden in a black account.


Take my pesos, Swiss francs too,
The bankers showed me what to do;
That Lord Green has said I can
Hide it from the revenue man.


Take my possessions, Lord, I beg;
Racehorse and land, Fabergé egg,
The wife, my I-phone, and my fax
Are set against my UK tax.

Take my wealth, Lord, let it be,
Shrouded in Swiss secrecy;
Take my silver and my gold,
Only tax will I withhold.

Words adapted from F. R. Havergal (1836-79).

Posted by Chris Martin at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 2:34pm GMT

Please Chris Martin can I use your hymn, with due acknowledgment?

Posted by Fr William at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 12:30pm GMT

For Father William: Yes, certainly. With pleasure.

Posted by Chris Martin at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 4:42pm GMT
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