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Updated August 20, 2018
HSBC acquired the scandal-plagued subprime lender Household International in 2002-03, for $14 billion dollars. For the reasons set forth below, Inner City Press / Community on the Move and its Fair Finance Watch from November 18, 2002, onwards has opposed this combination. Household entered a cease-and-desist order with the SEC on March 19, 2003; then, between March 25 and 28, various regulators delivered approvals (several of which, including those of the Delaware Insurance Department, the Maryland banking department and the OCC, were conditional, see below). Following the "consummation" on March 28 (a court having been unable to hear the lawsuit ICP filed on March 27), ICP carried to campaign to HSBC's regulators in each continent, see, e.g, Financial Times of April 4, 2003. Documentation of HSBC's Household's predatory lending continue to flow in, including in response to Freedom of Information rulings in such states as Indiana and Texas. This campaign is ongoing, and growing. Below, you will find ICP's post-consummation updates. For or with more information, contact us.
ICP has published a (double) book on the topic of predatory lending, much of it concerning HSBC - Household. The London Times of April 15, 2004, "A Novel Approach," said it ICP's executive director, "the New York public interest lawyer who gave HSBC such a hard time over its $14 billion acquisition of Household International, the sub-prime lender to America's poor, has penned a novel" which "has a cast of colorful characters." The Washington Post of March 15, 2004, calls Predatory Bender: America in the Aughts "the first novel about predatory lending." The Pittsburgh City Paper says the 100-page afterword makes the "indispensable point that predatory lending is now being aggressively exported to the rest of the globe." Click here for that review; click here for sample chapters, an interactive map, and ordering information, including in the U.K. and elsewhere HSBC is taking Household's practices... See also, "City Lit: Roman a Klepto [Review of ‘Predatory Bender’]," by Matt Pacenza, City Limits, Sept.-Oct. 2004.
new CEO," by Lorene Yue, Crain's Chicago Business, May 15,
'overcharging' US troops," by Conal Walsh, The Observer
(UK), December 18, 2005; US
soldiers' families allege loan discrimination by HSBC," by
Karl West, The Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), December 5, 2005;
Faces [Metris] Bid Challenge,” by Conal Walsh, The
Observer, September 18, 2005;
“Delaware Records Act Ruled Unconstitutional,” by Rita K.
Farrell, New York Times, May 16, 2005, Pg. C2;
“N.Y. man wins open records lawsuit: Out-of-staters get
access to documents,” by Sean O’Sullivan, Wilmington (Del.) News
Journal, May 14, 2005 ;
;“HSBC predatory in U.S. lending,” by Conal Walsh, The Observer (UK), April 24, 2005; "Novel Approach," by Dominic Walsh, The London Times, April 15, 2004; "Household's request to block records denied; “Appeals Judges Rule to Open HFC Records,” by John Stark, Bellingham Herald, September 9, 2004, Pg. 3A; "Loan company says settlement negotiations were confidential; will appeal," by John Stark, Bellingham Herald, July 21, 2004, Pg. 1A; "Parties in Records Fight Don't See Need for Trial," [HSBC] by Mary Allen, Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, July 7, 2004, Pg. 1B; "Household International sues to keep talks secret," by John Stark, Bellingham Herald, June 19, 2004; "HSBC Hit on Downstate Minority Lending Patterns," by Jonathan Epstein, Buffalo News, June 13, 2004; "Del. officials respond to records suit: State denies FOIA law violates Constitution," by Mary Allen, Wilmington News-Journal, December 23, 2003, Pg. 3B; "Lawsuit Challenges Records Law in Delaware," Associated Press, November 27, 2003 - ongoing copy at FirstAmendmentCenter.org"; Advocacy Group Tries to Stop [HSBC-] AMP Deal," by Sebastian Tong, Hong Kong Standard, April 29, 2003; "Big Lenders Forced to Bank on 'Untouchables' of the Past," by Gary Silverman, Financial Times (London), April 4, 2003, Pg. 18; "HSBC Poll Supports GBP 9 Billion U.S. Takeover," London Daily Mail, March 29, 2003; "HSBC - Household Deal Approval Challenged by Lawsuit Filed by U.S. Consumer Group," by Anna Boekstegen, Agence France Presse, March 28, 2003; "Investors Hold Key to GBP 9 Billion HSBC Takeover," by Patrick Hosking, Evening Standard (London), March 28, 2003; "HSBC Target Household Accused of Shredding Papers," by Sebastian Tong, Hong Kong Standard, March 26, 2003... "Complaint Alleges Violations" [of Elections Law by Household], by Elizabeth Benjamin, Albany Times Union, February 3, 2003.. ; "Activists Demand Household Inquiry," by Simon Bowers, The Guardian (London), January 4, 2003... "Fresh Row Erupts at HSBC's GBP 9.7 Billion American Bid Target," by Miles Costello, Financial Mail on Sunday, December 29, 2002; ... "HSBC's U.S. Takeover Faces Legal Challenge: Racial Bias Claim by Civil Rights Group in New York," by Patrick Hosking, The Evening Standard (London), November 19, 2002, Pg. 35 ... "HSBC to Buy Household International," by Bruce Stanley, Associated Press, November 14, 2002, etc..
This will be updated. For or with more
Update of August 20, 2018: Last
ended its "enforcement
for murderous drug
gangs. Plus ca
back on this HSBC beat.
of February 8, 2016: Just
on [Feb 5]
Update of February 16, 2015: Amid the reporting on HSBC's money laundering, too little has been said that at the same time, HSBC was buying and running predatory lender Household Finance / HFC. Abusing consumers is apparently not as newsy -- but it is related.Update of June 3, 2013: So Capital One "in the process of selling receivables associated with HSBC's partnership with electronics retailer Best Buy to Citigroup," according to SNL Financial. "Fairbank said he had hoped his company and Best Buy 'could've gotten to a meeting of the minds.'" And what ever happened with that "add-on" settlement and sleaze? Thanks, HSBC. Update of February 25, 2013: In Panana, HSBC aims to sell off its banking operations to Bancolombia SA for $2.1 billion in cash, saying it will close in the third quarter. We'll see. Antonio Losada, CEO of HSBC Latin America, said HSBC Bank (Panama) is being sold so the bank can focus on its core markets of Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Yeah, right...
Update of January 14, 2013: Profile of HSBC, in its US headquarters city, from Reuters:
"When the housing market crashed, so did Volker's contractor business, and he was unable to keep up with payments on his barn-like two-story house in Buffalo, New York. His mortgage servicer, HSBC, foreclosed on the home in 2009. A few months later, while he was staying with his girlfriend, he stopped by the house to find an HSBC padlock on the doorknob and bank stickers plastered across the door. Shattered glass covered his front steps. When he crawled through a broken window, he found the place trashed - by whom, he doesn't know. Even the toilets were gone. Hearing nothing more from the bank, he figured the house was no longer his. The place continued to decay. Gutters tore loose from the eaves. The yard turned into a dump for balding tires. Volker's neighbors started complaining to the Buffalo Housing Court, which eventually tracked down Volker at the rental where the 49-year-old was living and ordered him to appear in court. That's when Judge Carney told him that he was still the owner. "I was stunned," Volker says. "I never for a moment thought I still owned this house."
"Volker worked with a realtor to try to get HSBC to take several short-sale offers - deals under which the bank would allow Volker to sell the house for less than the amount owed on it - but he says HSBC turned them down. Since then, he's been asking the bank to agree to a deed in lieu, whereby he would give the house back to the bank. So far, he hasn't been able to make that happen. He has $1,000 in water and trash bills and faces up to $30,000 in demolition fees if the city decides his house is a safety hazard and must be torn down. HSBC declined to comment on Volker's case."
Update of December 31, 2012: HSBC is being sued by three counties in Georgia which say its "predatory lending practices include targeting vulnerable borrowers for mortgage loans with unfavorable terms; directing credit-worthy borrowers to more costly loans; putting unreasonable terms, excessive fees or pre-payment penalties into mortgage loans; basing loan values on inflated or fraudulent appraisals; and refinancing a loan without benefit to the borrower." That's what we said when HSBC bought Household, saying it all the way to Hong Kong and Singapore. Now the chickens come home to roost...
Update of December 17, 2012: So HSBC settles for money laundering for drug dealers, but there's no criminal sentence, no jail time, nothing.
Update of November 5, 2012: HSBC has bankrolled logging companies causing widespread environmental destruction and human rights abuses in Sarawak, Malaysia, violating its sustainability policies and earning around US$130 million in the process, a Global Witness investigation reveals today. The bank is also providing financial services to companies widely suspected of systematic bribery and corruption. Malaysia’s Sarawak region exports more tropical timber than South America and Africa combined and now has just five per cent of its forests left intact following decades of industrial-scale logging and plantation development. The Global Witness report, “In the Future There Will Be No Forests Left”, identifies loans and services to seven of the region’s largest logging conglomerates that would have generated HSBC an estimated US$130 million in interest and fees.
Update of October 1, 2012: HSBC's sell off to Capital One is resulting in yet more layoffs, in Washington State. Tellingly, Capital One says they can re-applying to Cap One's growing fraud unit. Yes, Capital One continues to grow in fraud -- empowered and embolded by the HSBC business?
"Capital One said Wednesday that it would cut 217 collections jobs from its Tigard office. It's the second time this year the financial company has announced large-scale layoffs at the former HSBC call center. The cutbacks are set to begin Jan. 2 as Virginia-based Capital One shifts the operations elsewhere, spokeswoman Julie Rakes wrote in an e-mail.
"Capital One earlier this year outlined plans to slash marketing jobs in Tigard after acquiring the site from HSBC. It bought the British banking company's U.S. credit division in a $2.6 billion deal that closed in May. Employees affected by the most recent round of layoffs can interview for jobs in the office's growing fraud division, the company said."
Update of August 6, 2012: HSBC abandons communities in its wake? Community Bank System Inc. is closing five branches, three of which are former HSBC Bank USA NA branches divested by First Niagara. Among the remaining two, one of the branches is from among the three additional branches that Community Bank is acquiring from First Niagara. Supposedly the consolidation will be effective Sept. 10 and the consolidations will not result in any layoffs.
Update of July 16, 2012: HSBC is subject to a Senate hearing this week, on funding support for terrorism...
Update of August 8, 2011: There will be formal opposition to the cynical plan to sell 195 HSBC branches to too-small First Niagara, which would in turn closed 33 of them and sell on 67 of them is an outrage - it has no benefits to the public, and should be denied. HSBC irresponsibly bought, saved and imposed Household International on consumers. Now it seeks to pull back from the US in another irresponsible way. This will be fought.
Update of August 1, 2011: Serial acquirer First Niagara, opposed by community groups and local elected officials on its recent deal in for New Alliance in New Haven, now seeks to pay $1 billion to buy 195 Northeast branches from HSBC, mainly in Upstate New York, held approximately $15.0 billion in deposits and $15.0 billion in gross assets as of May 31. First Niagara will pick up 183 branches in Upstate New York, four branches in northern Westchester County, N.Y., two branches in Putnam County, N.Y., and six branches in Connecticut. HSBC said it will be consolidating approximately 13 branches located in Connecticut and New Jersey into nearby HSBC branches by the first quarter of 2012, subject to regulatory approval. We'll be there - watch this site.
Update of April 12, 2010: In the first study of the just-released 2009 mortgage lending data, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has found that HSBC confined African Americans to higher-cost loans above the Federal defined subprime rate spread 2.57 times more frequently than whites. HSBC confined Latinos to higher-cost loans above the rate spread 1.61 times more frequently than whites, the data show. 2009 is the sixth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over the federally-defined rate spread. Further studies will follow.
Update of March 15, 2010: HSBC helped cause the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. by demanding more collateral and changing guarantee agreements, under HSBC "Project Opaque."
Update of March 8, 2010: HSBC is among the two biggest RAL lenders, in its ongoing "partnership" with H&R Block. Rather than publicly or even privately urging these big banks to stop RALs -- as even the FDIC has done with smaller institutions like Republic -- the OCC issued a vague policy guidance that provides no penalties, http://www.occ.gov/ftp/bulletin/2010-7a.pdf
Update of November 16, 2009: House of cards - HSBC announced last week it had agreed to sell its London headquarters building to the National Pension Service of Korea for $1.3 billion. The move to sell its 8 Canada Square property in Canary Wharf, London's financial area, comes a month after the bank announced the sale of its New York headquarters building to Israeli investment holding company IDB Group for $330 million...
Update of October 19, 2009: HSBC reportedly "hopes to list its shares in Shanghai next year, becoming one of the first overseas companies to do so, its chief executive said. "I don't see it being a 2009 event, hopefully in 2010. It has a very symbolic element for HSBC. We were established in 1865 in Hong Kong and Shanghai... we would welcome participating in the Chinese market," Michael Geoghegan told Reuters in an interview on Monday. Asked how much he expected the listing to raise, he said: "We haven't got to that stage yet. We are looking at the fundamentals." People familiar with the matter have told Reuters that HSBS could raise $3-$7 billion as part of a Shanghai listing. The bank, which operates in 86 countries, has investments worth about $22 billion in China, including a 19 percent stake in Bank of Communications and a 16.8 percent stake in Ping An Insurance. HSBC announced last month Geoghegan would move to Hong Kong from February, as the bank focused more on Asia."
Watch out for the predatory lending...
Update of September 28, 2009
says he's moving from London to Hong Kong. Same
Update of September 21, 2009: HSBC, whose Household International unit told borrowers how to doctor their applications for subprime loans, has now sued New York businessman and prominent Democrat fund-raiser Hassan Nemazee, alleging he fraudulently obtained a $100 million loan from the bank and used the bulk of the money to repay a separate loan he falsely obtained from Citigroup. The funds were used to repay a loan from Citigroup's Citibank unit, according to the lawsuit. The HSBC loan remains outstanding, according to the complaint. Prosecutors have said he used fake documents to borrow money to repay the loan from Citibank on Aug. 24. The government has said Nemazee obtained a line of credit to repay Citibank by using the same type of fake documents - fake account statements and forged signatures - that he used to fraudulently obtain the Citibank loan.
Update of September 14, 2009: HSBC is banking on the bloodbath on the beach: in Sri Lanka, with people still interned in the camps in Vavuniya, HSBC has bragged it is looking to open branch offices in Jaffna and elsewhere in the North. "HSBC is looking at opening branches in strategic locations in the North and East," its CEO for Sri Lanka and Maldives Nick A Nicolaou said. Some call it "banking on the bloodbath on the beach," and wonder how HSBC has to date escaped the boycott calls that have been directed at Victoria's Secret -- will it be exposed? -- and GAP, including its ironically named Banana Republic brand. We'll see.
Sri Lanka's Ethnic Cleansing Bonds Touted by StanChart and HSBC, IMF Silence on Vote Is "Policy"
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 2 -- Less than a week after five countries on the International Monetary Fund's executive board cast rare votes of abstention and did not support the IMF's $2.6 billion loan to Sri Lanka, due to the continued detention of 280,000 people in internment camps in the north, Inner City Press on July 30 asked the IMF to finally confirm the five abstentions or to explain why it refuses to disclose the votes of its executive board.
IMF spokesperson Caroline Atkinson replied that "it's just a matter of our policy not to... it may even be a matter of our legal requirements... It's a matter for executive board member to disclose their voting if they wish to. It's not a matter for IMF staff or management, that's always our practice." But why?
Later on July 30, Inner City Press asked the UK's outgoing Ambassador to the UN John Sawers about the IMF loan, on which the UK abstained. Sawers too dodged the question, saying "You'll have to ask my colleagues in Washington about the situation at the IMF board. The loan has been approved, as you say." Video here, from Minute 5:34. After that, Sawers mentioned the displacement -- that is, detentions -- and of the "legitimate concerns of minorities, particularly Tamils."
UK-based banks HSBC and
Standard Chartered both gushed about the IMF loan,
without any reference to ongoing internments. The
IMF loan "is a significant positive for Sri Lanka’s
external liquidity position and should further boost
sentiment toward the country," Standard Chartered’s
Mumbai-based analyst Priyanka Chakravarty wrote
in a research report. "It is noteworthy that the
final IMF loan amount is appreciably higher than
Nick Nicolaou, chief executive officer of HSBC Sri Lanka, pitched that "the IMF endorsement provides confidence to overseas investors... Sri Lanka has an excellent story to tell." Fellow UK bank Barclays, along with HSBC and JPMorgan Chase, was involved in the Rajapakse administration's October 2007 bond sale in the run-up to the final assault on North Sri Lanka.
Now Sri Lanka says it wants to raise $500 million more from overseas. Some say that these bloodbath bonds are now ethnic cleansing instruments. Watch this site.
HSBC Gushes About Sri Lanka, IMF "Loan for Ethnic
Cleansing" Still Delayed
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, June 19 -- While human rights groups call for investigations of the killing of tens of thousands of civilians by the Sri Lankan government as well as Tamil Tigers, and for the government to release the hundreds of thousands of Tamils including UN staff whom it has in detention, HSBC Bank, like some notorious hedge fund investors, sees only the chance to profit while there's blood in the streets.
Arjuna Mahendran, hyping the possibility of
Sri Lanka becoming the "Hong Kong of India."
report by Prakriti
Sri Lanka: "a report released by HSBC Global
Research on 25 May 2009 had forecast... business process
outsourcing (BPO), and manufacturing were key sectors ripe for
Foreign Direct Investment."
But while continuance of the EU's GPS Plus favorable
tariff treatment of Sri Lankan textiles, proffered after the
tsunami, requires a human rights review, the Rajapakse
administration has blocked investigators' access.
focus seems to be on Sri Lanka's ports, which are to
be trebled in size. Getting many of the contracts,
some have noted, are South Korean firms.
But even the International
administration's application for a $1.9 billion loan
would be approved "within weeks"(click here
for the Inner City Press story) now
says the proposal is not yet certain, is not agreed
The government's use of funds for what many call
ethnic cleansing is increasingly questionable. This
does not dissuade HSBC...
HSBC has a global record of ignoring human rights. It was implicated in money laundering with Riggs Banks, for Agusto Pinochet of Chile and other dictators. It has raised funds for controversial Canadian oil company Talisman, and has been sued for lending discrimination. Many now question its blithe gushing at this time about Sri Lanka. Watch this site.
9, 2009 --- Congress
during the debate about bailing out the banks decided that
non-US banks should not be getting TARP funds. Now it emerges
that of the $50 billion the Feds have given to AIG's
counter-parties, Deutsche Bank for example has gotten a full $6
billion. Also receiving hand-outs were HSBC, Royal Bank of
Scotland and Societe Generale. Worse, the Federal Reserve is
trying to avoid providing a listing of the companies who've
gotten the public money, as reiterated by Fed Vice Chair Don
Kohn on March 5. This is a new low, to be followed up in DC this
week. Meanwhile, HSBC said it is closing 800 HFC and Benefitcial
offices. Good riddance...
Update of March 2, 2009: The Journal sings HSBC's praises, that "gains from growth in Asia have helped HSBC offset deep losses from HSBC Finance Corp., the bank's largely subprime U.S. lender." According to the strategy, some of that Asia lending was subprime, too...
February 2, 2009: HSBC continues to defend itself
"vigorously against claims from clients that had invested into
Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, a spokeswoman said
Wednesday. Late Tuesday, Spain's Banco Santander SA (STD) said it
is offering thousands of its private banking clients EUR1.38
billion compensation for losses arising from investments in the
Madoff alleged pyramid scheme. The compensation is given to
customers behind a class-action suit against the bank. That
lawsuit was also directed at auditor PriceWaterhouseCoopers and at
HSBC which acted as custodian of investments. HSBC's role in
the Madoff case as custodian was passive, in that it administered
accounts where clients had investments with Madoff. In December,
HSBC said it doesn't believe the custodial arrangements should be
a source of exposure to the group. HSBC has also provided
financing to a small number of institutional clients which
invested in funds with Madoff. It has said its potential
exposure under those financing transactions is in the region of $1
Update of January 19, 2009: HSBC has significant exposure to toxic assets, including U.S. subprime mortgages that aren't marked to market, either because they are held directly on its loan book or because the U.K. regulator absurdly allows unrealized losses on certain assets to be written back for capital purposes. It is estimated that HSBC's true leverage is closer to 50 times and Tier 1 is 4.6%, making it one of the most highly leveraged banks in the world. How's that Household now?
Update of January 12, 2009: More chickens coming home to roost for HSBC -- "European shareholder group Deminor said Friday it may take legal action against ... HSBC Holdings PLC on behalf of investors who bought products from disgraced asset manager Bernard Madoff."
Update of January 5, 2009: Talk by HSBC that they had cleaned up their predatory lending act has been blown out of the water by the example cited by even the Wall Street Journal, of a $103,000 mortgage on a shack in Arizona, purchased by HSBC --
"Less than two years ago, Integrity Funding LLC, a local lender, gave a $103,000 mortgage to the owner, Marvene Halterman, an unemployed woman with a long list of creditors and, by her own account, a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. By the time the house went into foreclosure in August, Integrity had sold that loan to... a U.S. unit of HSBC Holdings PLC"
We'll wait to hear the spinmeisters at HSBC try to explain this one away...
Update of December 8, 2008: As with its bogus claims to be exiting predatory lending, when HSBC makes noise about respect for the environment, it is usually false. "We have identified a small number of clients that are yet to be fully compliant...This doesn't necessarily mean that we will exit clients in this category," Irene Dorner, chief executive, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd., said in a statement. Earlier this week, media reports from Poland said that HSBC plans to terminate relationships with around 30% of its clients in forest-related products such as oil palm due to environmental concerns. "Where a client has not made material progress towards meeting our standards...then we may have to exit that relationship as a last resort," said Dorner. That is to say, no or very little change...
Update of December 1, 2008: On the environmental beat, HSBC client companies' violations include... client companies embroiled in conflicts over lands and forests with the Penan communities in Sarawak regarding the establishment of oil palm plantations on community lands
.. long standing conflicts between client companies and communities in North Sumatra which have led to the imprisonment of villagers and restrictions being placed on people’s movements, which have in turn prevented children from getting to school and villagers from going to market or their farmland
.. the takeover of community lands in West Kalimantan undermining community food security
.. repeated allegations that client companies in several parts of Indonesia are clearing forests and areas of high conservation value.
Nearly all of the 17 business groups which are HSBC’s clients have announced plans to expand their palm oil operations. Unless their practices change, these operations will inevitably destroy more forest, wildlife and peoples’ homes. Yep, that's HSBC..
Update of November 24, 2008: The WSJ of November 18 reported that in February 2007 "to modify loans, HSBC tried a strategy called 're-aging.' If a borrower fell behind on payments by two months or more, HSBC effectively allowed some to catch up by declaring the loan current and adding the delinquent amount to the balance owed." But re-aging began far earlier -- in fact, it was done at Household during the run-up to its sale to HSBC, to make the already dubious predatory business model look better. "Lipstick on the pig," whistleblowers called it them to Inner City Press, who reported it at the time. Plus ca change...
Update of November 17, 2008: Global fragment of the predatory lending meltdown -- What oversight will be given to HSBC and its involvement in subprime lending?
Update of November 10, 2008: HSBC, one of the first banks to have to announced big subprime write-offs, is trying to pull back in some segments of the U.S. consumer finance market. Through their purchase of Household International (and affiliates of its like the secured / subprime card lender Orchard Bank), HSBC became huge in subprime, and then had to pay the price. (They are exporting the business model elsewhere, but cutting back in US at least for now, as evidence by card solicitations down.
Update of November 3, 2008: The War on Want continues: in terms of shareholdings in Britain's largest arms companies, HSBC has a stake worth £483.4 million, HSBC invests in companies that produce cluster munitions and depleted uranium. Since 2000, there has been no significant downward trend in HSBC lending to the arms sector. In 2005, there was a major rise in HSBC's lending...
Update of October 27, 2008: HSBC's stock fell 13.5 per cent last week to a five-year low. "We question how long the [HSBC] shares can tread water in the face of falling earnings and increased pressure on capital, and we think the dividend is exposed," Morgan Stanley said. Takes one to know one...
Update of September 22, 2008: HSBC finally ended its pact for Korea Exchange Bank, denied rumors of interest in Morgan Stanley and Halifax...
Update of September 15, 2008: When asked on September 12 if it was making an offer for Lehman Brothers, HSBC through a spokesperson said, " "We have made it clear that our strategy relies on focusing on emerging markets and businesses with a genuine global connectivity." Yeah, like Household International and predatory lending...
Update of September 1, 2008: HSBC Holdings brags it has increased its stake in Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank from 14.4% to 20% for $77.1 million. The transaction follows the granting of special approval from the State Bank of Vietnam and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in July to increase HSBC's investment in Techcombank beyond the foreign ownership cap of 15%, HSBC said...
Update of August 25, 2008: Per DJ, "Russian police have raided the offices of four law firms representing Hermitage Capital Management Ltd., once the country's biggest portfolio investor, the fund's chief executive, Bill Browder, said Friday. The raids come after Hermitage, together with HSBC Holdings, turned to Russian courts to recover ownership of three Hermitage investment vehicles that they say were stolen last year with the help of the Interior Ministry."
So HSBC, in most parts of the world a rogue and spreader of predatory lending, is draped in the banner of corporate reform in Russia...
Update of August 18, 2008: HSBC Auto Finance will lay off about 400 workers in San Diego in the next three months as the giant London-based bank stops making auto loans in the United States. After exiting auto lending, HSBC's consumer finance unit intends to focus on its credit card and home mortgage businesses, said bank spokeswoman Cindy Savio in Chicago. And still much of it is predatory -- now to employees as well.
Update of August 11, 2008: Per WSJ, "HSBC North America's risk-weighted assets rose 11% to $374 billion in the first half, under the new Basel II banking rules, with most of the rise at HSBC Finance. That is the old subprime-dominated Household International, HSBC's U.S. unit into which it has pumped $2.2 billion in equity this year and which continues to need intensive treatment." Great purchase, that...
Update of August 4, 2008: HSBC is playing hard ball in Seoul. DJNS: " HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC) said Thursday that it hadn't received regulatory approval to buy a controlling stake in Korea Exchange Bank (004940.SE) by a July 31 deadline. The bank, recently ranked by Forbes as the world's largest company, has an exclusive agreement to buy the stake from U.S-based Lone Star Funds. HSBC and Lone Star have imposed a deadline on the deal, valued at around $6 billion, of July 31 to coincide with the required regulatory approval. 'The required regulatory approval was not obtained by 31 July so, under the terms of the acquisition agreement, either HSBC or Lone Star may terminate the agreement,' HSBC said in a statement... Earlier Thursday, an official at South Korea's Financial Services Commission said that HSBC hadn't submitted an amended application. "
Update of July 28, 2008: In what WSJ describes as good news for HSBC, "South Korea's financial regulator said Friday it might decide in September whether to approve a deal for HSBC Holdings PLC to acquire control of the country's seventh-largest bank, a break for the prolonged transaction that has come to symbolize the difficulties foreign investors sometimes experience here. The announcement leaves London-based HSBC and the lead shareholder of Korea Exchange Bank, Lone Star Funds of the U.S., to decide whether to extend their self-imposed deadline of July 31 for finishing the $6.3 billion deal. They reached terms last September and aimed to finish the transaction in April. But they extended their agreement through this month when it became clear South Korea's Financial Supervisory Commission wouldn't act on it. In bank transactions, the agency's role is chiefly to confirm that the acquirer of a South Korean bank is also a bank. Under South Korean law, nonbanking firms can only buy a bank when it is under extreme financial distress. While HSBC fits South Korea's legal definition of a bank, the FSC has dragged its feet on the deal because of controversy over whether KEB should have been sold to Lone Star, a private-equity fund, in 2003. A former government official and two former KEB employees are on trial right now, accused of making KEB's financial condition look worse than it was to facilitate Lone Star's purchase."
Update of July 14, 2008: Korea Exchange Bank's CEO said Friday that the government should decide soon whether to approve HSBC purchase of a controlling stake in the bank from U.S.-based Lone Star Fund. "It is very difficult for the bank not to have clarity on when the deal can be closed," Richard Wacker whined at a press conference. If Lone Star has to find a new buyer for KEB as a result of the delayed decision, then the outcome may not be what the Korean government wanted, he said. Is that a threat?
Update of July 7, 2008: In a low-point in financial journalism, Business Week's Mara Der Hovanesian in the July 7 edition ladled praise on subprime lender HSBC, quoting as the only semi-critical voice... a mortgage broker. Nary a mention of Knight Vinke's call to sell off the subprime operation, either. We do, however, learned that Brendan McDonagh "favors pin-striped suits with bright ties." That's important information. The piece is sub-headed, "In Depth, the Housing Crisis."
Update of June 30, 2008: South Korea's Financial Services Commission Chairman Jun Kwang-woo reiterated Friday that unless legal matters are cleared, the government won't be able to approve the sale of a controlling-stake in Korea Exchange Bank by Lone Star Funds to HSBC. HSBC said earlier this month it may reconsider the KEB deal as the July 31 deadline for its roughly $6 billion exclusive deal with Lone Star nears. "As long as there is no clear sign the impending legal issue is resolved in one way or another, it will be difficult for us, policymaker and regulator, to take any official take on this measure," said Jun at a forum....
Update of June 23, 2008: HSBC will start banking operations in the republic of Georgia on Monday, from a six-story building on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi. The move means HSBC and concurrently or prospectively its predatory lending operation are now present in 84 countries and territories. In March, HSBC received approval to incorporate a business in Vietnam and announced a $200 million cash injection to fuel expansion in Russia and open three new offices there. In December last year it bought the Chinese Bank in Taiwan and also started operations in central China. In October it established a branch network in Peru and acquired Grupo Banistmo in Panama in July 2006.
Update of June 16, 2008: This week, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch filed comments against the Federal Reserve's secret process with banks, in essence a rule-making excluding the public even those the topic, credit derivatives, has come up because of the subprime lending crisis. The financial institutions invited -- and now challenged -- included HSBC. The Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. Section 553) and related laws require that when the government engages in rule-making, it must provide notice to the public, and allow and weigh public comments. Press accounts make clear that the financial instruments and regulatory issues discussed behind closed doors at the FRBNY on June 9 are related to issues of public interest, which in fact are disproportionately impacting low- and moderate- income people and communities of color -- subprime and predatory mortgages. Watch this site.
Update of June 2, 2008: At HSBC's annual general meeting last week, the company was urged to consider selling off its "losing" subprime lender in the U.S.. Managers were urged give back their bonuses. CEO Green dissed Knight Vinke accusations that the bank had poured more than $62 billion into HFC and said the business was "funding itself perfectly satisfactorily." (See, Reuters via NYT, May 30).
Update of May 26, 2008: HSBC is a finalist to become advisor to the privatization of Nigeria Telecom...
Update of May 19, 2008: HSBC has it will acquire a 73.21% stake in Indian brokerage firm IL&FS Investsmart Ltd. for $241.6 million, half of it from an entity known as E*Trade Mauritius Ltd. -- who knew?
Update of May 12, 2008: From DJ, "HSBC comes out with an interim management statement Monday and will also report on conditions at its U.S. consumer finance business, HSBC Finance Corp., where impairment charges soared nearly 80% to $11.7 billion in 2007 as a result of the U.S. housing market deterioration. Lehman Brothers analysts said they expect a pretax loss of $1 billion at HSBC Finance in the first quarter, including credit loss charges of $3.3 billion. Despite the short-term losses at HSBC Finance, Lehman said the U.S. operations have positive value, echoing Chairman Stephen Green's statement in February that it would be 'as unreasonable as it is unrealistic to walk away.' Green said sticking to the business would be intrinsic to uphold the reputation and the brand value of HSBC." That they're even talking of HSBC cutting and running...
Update of May 5, 2008: HSBC begrudgingly agreed last week to extend the deadline for the completion of its proposed acquisition of a majority stake in Korea Exchange Bank from Lone Star Fund by two months to July 31. The proposed deal has been hindered by an ongoing tax-related trial over the U.S. private equity fund's acquisition of the stake in KEB in 2003. The statement said HSBC or Lone Star may terminate the agreement if the deal isn't completed on or before July 31. "The proposed transaction is entirely in line with our stated strategy to focus on high-growth economies and I continue to be of the view that it is in the best interest of all KEB stakeholders and of HSBC," HSBC Group Chairman Stephen Green said. HSBC's statement made no reference to the ongoing trial -- or the sleaze...
Update of April 28, 2008: South Korea's Financial Services Commission Chairman Jun Kwang-Woo Wednesday said he hopes to soon find a way to resolve the issue of Lone Star Funds' stalled sale of Korea Exchange Bank. South Korea's sixth largest bank by assets is majority-owned by Dallas-based Lone Star, which agreed last September to sell its shares to HSBC for $6.3 billion. Lone Star's exclusivity in the agreement with HSBC will end on April 30... "It will be between Lone Star and HSBC, not the government, to decide whether to extend the contract," said Jun. That's just how HSBC likes and pays for it - government and the public out of the way...
Update of April 21, 2008: HSBC bragged last week that it is launching a new private bank in Ireland. "Ranked the third largest private bank in the world by Euromoney, HSBC Private Bank offers wealth management, banking and trust services in over 93 locations around the world" -- including some breakaway republics, with the presumptive offer of creative money washing...
Update of April 14, 2008: As HSBC claimed to cut back on subprime lending in 2007, a new ICP Fair Finance Watch study has found that HSBC continued making super high cost loans subject to the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) -- that is, at least eight percent over comparable Treasury securities. Using 2007 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data that was required to be released on March 31, ICP Fair Finance Watch has found 3396 such loans by HSBC, at interest rates up to a whopping 19.75% over comparable Treasury bond rates. Fully three-quarters of HSBC's loans to African Americans in 2007 were subprime loans, as these are defined by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.
Update of April 7, 2008: HSBC vows that in the face of the subprime meltdown, in which its Household Finance unit played a major role, it will try to buy yet more lenders in the U.S.. HSBC's Mike Geoghegan said last week that HSBC will "continue to participate in the consumer finance business in the US and expected to expand its portfolio." Great...
Update of March 24, 2008: "HSBC being a global local bank, aims to become the main bank in Russia," said Stuart Lawson, acting chairman of the board in Russia of HSBC Bank, said on March 12. HSBC announced its intention to appoint Lawson chairman of HSBC in Russia after last year he resigned from Soyuz Bank. "The appointment of Stuart Lawson to the position of HSBC Russia Chairman of the Board will have a considerable effect on business development," Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, was quoted as saying. The first three representative office of HSBC in Russian regions were opened in 2007 in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk. According to Lawson, the bank will set up offices in two or three more regions, including Rostov. "It complies with HSBC intention to become a regional bank in all the business dimensions, including retail financial services," he said. Look out for HSBC's predatory lending...
Update of March 17, 2008: HSBC defends tax evasion -- the head of HSBC Holdings PLC's (HBC) private banking operations in Switzerland last week criticized tactics used by Germany in its tax evasion row with Liechtenstein, saying they posed serious obstacles for the banking industry. "I think it's time to leave the industry...when governments buy stolen goods to basically get their way through," said HSBC Private Banking (Suisse) Chief Executive Peter Braunwalder, who is stepping down none too soon in October. Braunwalder said it should be up to national governments rather than private banks to track down money deemed to be stashed away from the exchequer. "If they (the authorities) find that the money is missing, they can ask for assistance and we will help," he said. But "they want to charge 65% tax on their people and...then they go to Liechtenstein, Luxembourg to ask them to do their job?" he asked rhetorically. Braunwalder was speaking at the presentation of HSBC Private Banking (Suisse)'s annual results. "I see this industry becoming more and more difficult...the German government is doing things that shock me," Braunwalder said.
And HSBC's Household's predatory lending isn't shocking?
Update of March 10, 2008: Thomas Tobin, the chief executive of HSBC's operations in Vietnam, said HSBC is in talks to increase the stake in Techcombank to 20%. "The law says 15% is the upper limit, but it is possible to seek the prime minister's permission to get 20%," he said. And we thought they didn't lobby...
HSBC last week noted in its results that it has a "small representative office in Tehran''. HSBC said it recognized that should it break the U.S. rules on sanctions, there would be "serious legal and reputational consequences''.
Update of March 3, 2008: Now HSBC must file reports on its mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Information from October 2007 through February is due by March 31. Better late than never.
Update of February 25, 2008: From the wires, "HSBC Holdings PLC said it has appointed Brendan McDonagh as chief executive of HSBC North America Holdings Inc, its banking and consumer finance businesses in the US and Canada. The company also said Niall Booker will succeed McDonagh as CEO of HSBC Finance Corp, and as chief operating officer of HSBC North America." Readers will remember McDonagh's performance in front of Congress, defending HSBC's Household's subprime lending. And now he'll run the wider show...
Update of February 18, 2008: Wheeling and dealing, HSBC Holdings PLC will begin raising $4.2 billion to fund Borse Dubai's acquisition of Scandinavian stock exchange OMX AB, according to Mukhtar Hussain, global investments head at HSBC....
Update of February 11, 2008: HSBC is reportedly looking to sell the UK network it bought along with Household, HFC, only waiting for a Financial Services Authority investigation into the way it was selling payment-protection insurance. The investigation concluded last month with small-in-context fine. That does not mean that HSBC does not continue expanding elsewhere its predatory lending and, as noted, predatory credit insurance...
Update of February 4, 2008: A South Korean court Friday found Lone Star Funds guilty of stock manipulation, levied a fine on the company and sentenced the head of its local unit to jail. The Seoul Central District Court sentenced Paul Yoo, the head of Lone Star's South Korean unit, to five years in jail for manipulating the stock price of the credit-card unit of Korea Exchange Bank, in which Lone Star owns a controlling stake. The court fined Lone Star and KEB each $263.6 million. South Korea's Financial Supervisory Commission after the ruling said it will wait for the outcome of other legal cases related to Lone Star's acquisition of KEB in 2003, although those cases aren't directly related to the Dallas-based fund. So Friday's verdict is likely to further delay the sale of Lone Star's controlling stake in KEB to HSBC Holdings.
Which is probably a blessing for Korean consumers, given HSBC's predatory lending...
Update of January 21, 2008: HSBC's bottom-feeding has run into delays, now in South Korea. There, HSBC last year announced plans to acquire Lone Star's stake in Korea Exchange Bank. But Lone Star's salesman, Paul Yoo, now faces a ten-year prison term and $4.5 million fine for price manipulation. Impact on HSBC? Not yet clear.
Update of January 14, 2008: Guess who's advising the transition team of Lee Myung-bak of South Korea? It's previous HSBC bigwig David Eldon, who repeated the mantra of HSBC being ethical, a claim which, Seoul sources say, may be put to the test in this advisory relationship. We'll see.
Update of January 7, 2008: HSBC announced on January 2 that it signed an agreement to sell Wealth & Tax Advisory Services USA to "participating WTAS managing directors in a management buy-out for up to $65.9 million. WTAS provides tax advisory services in the U.S. to high net worth individuals including HSBC Private Bank customers." Ah, tax avoidance -- or could it be, tax evasion?
Update of December 31, 2007: Be aware -- it is HSBC's Household's position that it can access credit reports even of a person who has not applied to it for credit. In Enoch v. Dahle/Meyer Imports, L.L.C., et al., No. 2:05-CV-409 TC (D. Utah 11/16/07, a consumer tried to hold her car dealer, two lenders, and a credit reporting agency liable after she was denied credit. Rosaline Enoch went to Dahle Mazda to buy a vehicle. Enoch chose a car and signed a note for a down payment. Enoch also signed a contract of sale, which stated that the dealership agreed to seek financing for the car loan. Allegedly, the dealership led Enoch to believe that it already had arranged financing. Household Auto Finance Corp. denied Enoch credit, and the dealership was unable to arrange other financing. Dahle demanded that Enoch pay for the car or agree to rescind the deal, in which case Dahle would return the money Enoch had paid. Enoch surrendered the car and subsequently sued... The court concluded that when Enoch signed the contract with Dahle, she authorized the dealership to seek credit on her behalf. "Consequently - even though Ms. Enoch did not request credit directly from... Household - there is no question that Ms. Enoch participated in the request for credit," the court wrote. Be afraid - be very afraid...
Update of December 24, 2007: The Colombia unit of HSBC sucked up a capital injection of $20 million from its parent. "This capital injection is a sign of the growth potential we have (in Colombia)," Roberto Brigard, chief executive of HSBC Colombia SA, said in a statement. In October, HSBC's workers in Colombia went on a strike demanding higher wages...
Update of December 17, 2007: Getting over -- the Taiwan government will pay HSBC $1.46 billion to take over Chinese Bank, a member of the bankrupt Rebar Group, Johnson Chen, the president of Taiwan's government-owned deposit insurer, said Friday.
Update of December 10, 2007: HSBC reported in mid-November that it was setting aside $3.4 billion for bad debts in its consumer lending business -- which, as not noted by Business Week, including not only credit cards but also high-rate personal loans...
Update of December 3, 2007: HSBC last week " became the first bank to bail out specialized funds known as structured investment vehicles. HSBC plans to gradually shut down two bank-sponsored SIVs [Cullinan Finance Ltd. and Asscher Finance Ltd. Janus Capital Group Inc.] and take $45 billion in mortgage-backed securities and other assets owned by the funds onto its own balance sheet... Meanwhile, a group of the world's largest banks, led by Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., are seeking to raise a 'super fund' of as much as $100 billion that would buy assets from the SIVs to prevent a mass fire sale of assets."
Update of November 26, 2007: HSBC chairman Stephen Green has announced, "We will invest primarily in the fast growing emerging markets going forward as we reshape our business," Green said. "If there are areas of business where we think capital is not earning a return and there's nothing we can do to restructure the business, then we will follow through the logic of that." However, he stressed that there are no plans to exit the U.S. or the bank's U.S. consumer finance business, where HSBC had taken hefty impairment charges on bad mortgages this year, saying that "just because consumer finance is cyclical isn't a reason not to be in it." How 'bout the unethical nature of HSBC's still-predatory lending?
Update of November 18, 2007: HSBC Holdings on November 14 said it took a higher-than-expected impairment charge of $3.4 billion on bad debts at its HSBC Finance unit in the third quarter. "I don't think anybody knows if we've reached the bottom," Stephen Green spun on a conference call. HSBC said that the group's principal sponsored conduits - Solitaire, Bryant Park, Regency and Abington Square - are funding "satisfactorily" with no asset impairments. It added that its off-balance sheet SIVs managed by HSBC - Cullinan and Asscher - also currently have funding arrangements in place. "Asset quality within the SIVs remains high, although two financial institution issuers of assets held by the SIVs were downgraded subsequent to the quarter end," it said. We'll see...
Update of November 12, 2007: Again, HSBC, the largest bank in Europe by market value, bought a 10 percent stake in Vietnam in Bao Viet Insurance & Finance for $255 million in September. Now GE moves in...
Update of November 5, 2007: Blast from the past: in the mail last week came a letter from the Office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott:
"As you may recall, in January 2003, you made a public information request... for certain documents regarding Household International... Subsequently, Household filed suit against the OAG for declaratory judgment to prevent the release of those documents. Recently, Household's suit was dismissed by the Court... Therefore the OAG is providing you with the enclosed documents."
Yeah -- more than three years late!
DJ reports that China's foreign exchange regulator granted HSBC Holdings PLC's (HBC) China unit, HSBC Bank (China) Co., an additional $500 million quota to invest overseas on behalf of clients, bringing its total quota to $1 billion.
Update of October 29, 2007: HSBC announced Friday it raised its stake in Bank of Communications to 19.0% from 18.6%. HSBC bought 130.5 million BoCom shares at an average price HK$12.39 apiece Tuesday, and another 42 million shares at an average HK$13.03 Wednesday, according to two filings with the Hong Kong stock exchange from BoCom, making a total purchase price of HK$2.16 billion. Vinh Tran, a spokswoman for HSBC, said the bank is "actively" considering options to raise its stake in the Chinese lender to 19.9%...
Update of October 22, 2007: HSBC has disputes not only with its subprime borrowers, but also with its workers. In Colombia, HSBC employees went on strike for 10 days, at the end of which HSBC said in an emailed statement, "Both sides reduced their pretensions to achieve mutual benefits." No, HSBC has yet to reduce its pretensions...
Update of October 15, 2007: According to the WSJ, "the Financial Services Authority, the United Kingdom's markets regulator, has suggested that U.K. banks consider participating in the plan, a person familiar with the situation said. HSBC Holdings PLC, the largest U.K. bank, has an affiliate SIV [structured investment vehicle] called Cullinan Finance Ltd. with $35 billion in senior debt." Wonder what they're invested in...
Update of October 8, 2007: Regarding HSBC, the LA Times last week quoted HSBC's Tom Detelich gushing that "on a few occasions, HSBC has cut the interest to 0%" -- which, has said, "was possible because the company didn't sell the loans it serviced." Then, "Other housing advocates said HSBC's workout program usually resulted in only short-term modifications. 'It is not our experience that HSBC is better or more flexible than other lenders,' said Matthew Lee, executive director of Fair Finance Watch in New York." That's right...
Update of October 1, 2007: And the spread just continues. In the past week, HSBC has wielded approvals for insurance joint-venture in China, with National Trust, for 10 branches in Peru, and to become the first international equity broker in the United Arab Emirates. And alongside it all, exporting and spreading predatory lending...
Update of September 24, 2007: So HSBC is closing its Decision One unit. Meanwhile, McDonagh tells the American Banker that HSBC "continues to feel comfortable originating subprime mortgages through its HFC and Beneficial consumer lending branches." Why?
Update of September 17, 2007: HSBC is moving to acquire a 10% stake in Vietnam insurance and financial services group, Vietnam Insurance Corporation (Bao Viet) $255 million. The deal will include the secondment of specialist employees and the provision of training to Bao Viet, HSBC said. Stephen Green, HSBC Chairman, said: "This investment and strategic partnership with Bao Viet reflects a growing commitment to Vietnam, and is in line with HSBC's stated strategy of targeting investment at high growth markets with international connections."
How long will it be before HSBC rolls out single premium credit insurance and the other predatory product lines it acquired along with Household International?
Update of September 10, 2007: The letter to HSBC last week from Knight Vinke Asset Management laid out a series of critiques, including that HSBC should "a strategy more focused on emerging markets, put more people with experience in those areas on its board, and changed the way top executives are compensated to more closely align performance with pay." But what about HSBC's bungling and predatory descent into (and export of) Household's subprime lending?
Update September 3, 2007: HSBC is buying into South Korea, a country now belatedly imposing interest rate caps on consumer finance...
Update of August 27, 2007: If HSBC tries to buy KEB in South Korea from Lone Star, it would export Household's predatory lending model into the South Korean market -- just another reason to oppose it...
Update of August 20, 2007: From DJ HK: " Bank of Communications Co., China's fifth-largest lender by assets, said first-half net profit rose 42% from a year earlier on higher interest income and rapid growth in its fee-based intermediary business. The Shanghai-based lender, 18.6%-owned by HSBC Holdings PLC, said it expects the Chinese economy to remain generally favorable to its operations in the second half but added that tightening measures and the opening up of China's financial sector to foreign institutions will pose 'additional pressure and challenges.'" Can you say, cannibalism?
Update of August 13, 2007: Why is HSBC Rural Bank Co. opening in Suizhou in central Hubei province? To further make nicey-nicey with the Chinese government, sure. But ever since HSBC bought Household International, when it says, "under-served," watch out for the predatory lending...
Update of August 6, 2007: It has emerged in Brazil that HSBC has lent to and enabled an ethanol producer, Para Pastoril e Agricola, in the Amazon state of Para, now accused of keeping its workers in "slave-like" conditions: 13 hour days for less than $20 a month.
Update of July 30, 2007: The WSJ quotes a Chinese banker that former HSBC Chairman John Bond "always said: In our bank we only have black and white, we don't have gray. If you are walking in the gray, then you are walking in the black."
And so Bond's purchase of Household International was...
Update of July 23, 2007: Analysts say a takeover of Korea Exchange Bank (004940.SE) by HSBC, would be positive for the U.K. lender -- they don't, however, say it would be positive for consumers in Korea, into which HSBC would bring the predatory lending it acquired along with Household International....The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday, citing people close to the situation, that HSBC is interested in taking a controlling stake in the Korean bank and has contacted U.S. private-equity company Lone Star Funds, which has been trying to sell its 51% holding in the Korean lender.
Update of July 16, 2007: HSBC, sued last week in the U.S. for racial discrimination in mortgage lending, simultaneously bragged it had gained the right, from the Vietnamese government, to buy 15% of a bank there. Spreading predatory lending?
Update of July 9, 2007: From a press release -- "HSBC has formally opened its third Customer Service Unit in Abu Dhabi at Khalidiya Area. The unit is located inside the Spinneys Supermarket, Khalidiya. The Centre was inaugurated by Mohamed Almulla, Chief Executive Officer of HSBC in Abu Dhabi in the presence of Lester Wynne-Jones, Regional Head of Personal Financial Services. The new Centre, the ninth for HSBC in the UAE, will offer a one-stop-shop for customers to submit applications for new accounts, loans, credit cards" -- and predatory loans...
Update of June 25, 2007: We take a brief detour for this, from the Straits Times of Singapore:
"On June 8, my father went to HSBC Jurong East branch to help me deposit money in my bank account, which I had just opened recently. A bank teller first asked about the origins of the money and then remarked that she was afraid my dad was a terrorist. My dad had a rude shock. Although I understand banks are required to carry out Customer Due Diligence (CDD) measures under MAS Act Cap 186 Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism, the bank teller could have handled the matter more appropriately. After I gave my feedback to HSBC, its reply was less than satisfactory. Instead of accepting responsibility for poor customer service, the customer service manager of Jurong East branch explained in a phone conversation that the teller was temporary and even suggested my dad go to the branch to receive an apology. In a subsequent letter, she advised me of the bank's requirement to seek details of the source and use of funds to comply with strict international regulations regarding money laundering and terrorism. A check on MAS Act Cap 186 reveals that banks undertake CDD measures only if the transaction exceeds $20,000. However, my dad's transaction was less than this amount... With all the government initiatives to make Singapore the regional banking centre and service centre, it is worrying that a temporary employee, I would think not properly trained by HSBC, is allowed to handle sensitive banking transactions. Even more disturbing is how HSBC management handles customer feedback."
Update of June 11, 2007: Monday's American Banker contains an absurd story about HSBC's subprime business, styled as an analysis of "the first 100 days of Brendan McDonagh," which reads as if HSBC wrote it. As a matter of media critique, note to the American Banker: a piece like this requires at least one outside quote, one other-side-of-the-story. Heck, Crain's Chicago Business did it. As political analysis, it contains this quote from Mr. McDonagh: "at the end of the day the views of the key political public officials and the key regulators are pretty much aligned with the key financial players." And so predatory lending goes on...
Update of June 4, 2007: HSBC last week was fined $850,000 for mismanaging "hundreds of containers of abandoned chemicals... NYS said HSBC knew of the abandoned chemicals, as well as frozen pipes and faulty fire suppression system at the site. However, HSBC didn't contact the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation or any state or local emergency responder to report the threat as required under state law." Meanwhile HSBC makes loud claims about carbon neutrality and climate change funding. Environmental responsibility begins at home, though, no?
Update of May 28, 2007: HSBC's Michael Geoghegan schmoozed shareholders at the annual general meeting that its acquisition of Household International, later renamed HSBC Finance Corp, was a wise move. "While there have been some challenges in the US this year, there have also been opportunities which, when fully implemented, will demonstrate the wisdom of this acquisition,'' Geoghegan claimed. We'll see... [Further updated August 7, 2007 -- an HSBC shareholder has called from London to say that he "made it very hard on them at the AGM," and that this should be noted. And so it is.]
Update of May 21, 2007: From a report last week, 2006 subprime mortgage volume and status of HSBC Finance $52,585 Huge bad debt reserves, closing offices, layoffs.
Update of May 14, 2007: And now HSBC will be taking retail deposits in Russia...
Update of May 7, 2007: From Hong Kong this quote: "We've been having a strategy of organic growth in Taiwan. There will be further consolidation in the Taiwanese banking industry, but I don't think the time is right," said Michael Smith, the chief executive of HSBC's Asian unit. He'll let us know what they changes, we're sure...
Update of April 30, 2007: Last week a Knight Ridder article reported that "at least 21 non-bank lenders have filed for bankruptcy protection or shut down since early last year. And the stocks of investment banks with large subprime holdings, such as Merrill Lynch and HSBC, are taking a hit as mortgage defaults and foreclosures climb." Uh, HSBC is hardly an "investment" bank. And HSBC was the largest subprime mortgage lender in the U.S. in 2006, with $52.5 billion in subprime mortgages made...
Update of April 23, 2007: The speculation has HSBC acquiring the Brazilian operations of ABN-Amro -- and using the platform to further expand Household's predatory lending...
Update of April 16, 2007: On April 13, HSBC Bank Egypt announced it will distribute a cash dividend to its shareholders of 32.92 Egyptian pounds a share ($5.8). In a statement on the Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchanges' Web site, the bank said the dividend will be distributed April 23. Established in 1982, HSBC Bank Egypt's paid-up capital is EGP1 billion. The bank is unit of HSBC Holdings PLC...
Update of April 9, 2007: In a study of the just-obtained 2006 mortgage lending data, ICP & Fair Finance Watch have identified disparities by race and ethnicity in the higher-cost lending of some of the nation's largest banks. 2006 is the third year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over the federally-defined rate spread of three percent over the yield on Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans, five percent on subordinate liens. Among other findings, At HSBC, over 63% of 2006 mortgages were subprime, including 6295 super high-cost loans subject to the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) -- that is, at least eight percent over comparable Treasury securities -- more than HSBC made in 2005. Nationwide at HSBC, half of white borrowers were confined to rate spread loans, versus 68.97% of African Americans and 63.27% of Latinos. In response, HSBC gave a quote-by-rote to Reuters. Banks Prone to Sell Minorities Pricy Loans," Reuters / Washington Post
Update of April 2, 2007: The Bush administration has been using the Treasury Department's powers and contacts to encourage major international banks to halt transactions with Iran. "Secretary Paulson and Secretary Rice have used their influence with corporate and financial leaders around the world to essentially give the message to European Arab and Asian bankers that Iran is not a good credit risk," Nick Burns said. According to Dow Jones, three European banks, including HSBC already have acquiesced to the Treasury's requests. We'll see...
Update of March 26, 2007: To the Dodd hearing last week, HSBC, which purchased Household International and its $486 million settlement for abuse of consumers, sent executive Brendan McDonagh, who in essence blamed his company's victims, saying they need more "financial literacy." Can you say, blaming the victim? HSBC can...
Update of March 12, 2007: The Mexican banking arm of HSBC Holdings Plc (HBC) said Tuesday that Paul Thurston has been named as the company's new CEO, replacing Alexander Flockhart. Grupo Financiero HSBC ranks as Mexico's fourth-largest banking group, $26.04 billion in assets at the end of December.
Update of March 5, 2007: Mortgage Strategies, "By Q3 2006 Household/HSBC ranked third in sub-prime production, aggressively courting loan brokers through its Decision One wholesale unit in North Carolina. But being third in a troubled market isn't necessarily a good thing... If you add the $14bn the bank paid for Household to the $10.56 bn reserve, HSBC has invested almost $25 bn in a business that is in freefall."
Update of February 26, 2007: So now HSBC has fired the ex-Household executives Bobby Mehta and Sandy Derickson, saying they did not reign in risky -- and , we say, predatory -- lending. But how can HSBC claim to be surprised? They bought a troubled lender in the midst of a predatory lending settlement...
Update of February 19, 2007: HSBC in October submitted a still-pending application for a Russian retail banking license, to target personal borrowers. So as its subprime business in the U.S. blows up in its face, HSBC wants to export the practices to Russia...
Update of February 12, 2007: Last week HSBC issued a profit warning heard 'round the world. Its purchase of the predatory lender Household International is now bringing the whole company down. The Times of London called Inner City Press to say, "Guess you guys were right, when you wrote to the HSBC board of director that Household was unsafe and unsound." Yep... See, e.g., "Sub-prime lenders fear defaults after costly HSBC fallout," Times of London, Feb. 10, 2007.
Update of February 5, 2007: Don't they ever learn? Just as HSBC's (14) billions re-inflated Household to harm more and more consumers, so too would Citigroup's reported opportunism reinvigorate the Ameriquest network of sleaze. Then again, at least as a business matter, amoral observers note, Citi might actually execute...
Update of January 29, 2007: HSBC proposes to double its stake in Techcombank, and to sell insurance in Vietnam.
Update of January 22, 2007: From South Africa's Sunday Times: " HSBC has been a dog of an investment in recent years. In 2006, the shares fell by 0.2%, the worst performance by any British bank and the only one to lose value as the UK banking sector rose by 11.4%. HSBC also underperformed almost every European bank. No wonder more disgruntled investors have started to ask pointed questions about Green and Geoghegan's leadership. So what has gone wrong? ...the US business HSBC Finance Corporation (HFC), the former Household International bought in 2003 for $14.8-billion... Early last month, HSBC surprised the City by revealing it had underestimated the number of people defaulting on second home loans in portfolios bought by the bank. Worse still, many of the loans were just six months old."
Wait -- did we tell you so?
Update of January 14, 2007: From HSBC's embattled chief Stephen Green's FT interview last week:
Green: Household was a strategically important acquisition for the group... We bought it for a US business but it also gives us a platform of expertise that we can take around the group. As of now we have something like 100 Household executives on secondment. Amongst those 2,000 people I mentioned, something like 100 of them are people, as it were, taking consumer finance expertise round other parts of our group. As an aside, by the way, that's not all a one-way street too, we also bought a consumer finance business in Brazil, a very different sort of market, and a lot of cross-learning between the two of them has taken place; and you've seen rapid development about consumer finance business in a whole range countries... Do I think we were wrong to be in mortgage business in the sub-prime sector? Absolutely not, it's a perfectly legitimate financial service to be offering that part of the customer base... It meets the needs of the kinds of customers, particularly ones where we have a real competitive advantage, the demography of emerging markets. The emerging markets-type customer bases in some of the G7 markets. You have the Hispanic market in the US, being an obvious example, 20 plus percent of the client base of Household, by the way, is Hispanic, and that component of the US market is growing faster than the overall US market as I think you'd recognize... We brought together the different parts of mortgages under one single mortgage supremo, but that's all the Household management doing that, so absolutely I'm confident in the management.
ICP note: HSBC is openly spreading Household's predatory practices around the globe and has put Household in charge of all mortgage lending, even the previously prime. More going forward on these 100 spreaders of predatory lending...
And on HSBC's sleaze in Mexico:
Mexico's Public Administration Department said Tuesday it will look into complaints of conflict of interest against a former treasury secretary, who was appointed this month as an independent director on the board of U.K.-based banking group HSBC Holdings PLC.
Francisco Gil Diaz, who was treasury secretary from 2000 to 2006 under former President Vicente Fox, was appointed Jan. 2 to the HSBC board as a non-executive director... Lawmakers have said the appointment shows Gil Diaz gave preferential treatment to the company. Gil Diaz denied that in a statement e-mailed to media outlets. He said his board appointment is independent and that he will not be an employee of HSBC. Gil Diaz added that his offer came from the HSBC holding company, which is not regulated in Mexico, and the banking group's Mexican unit was not involved.
Update of January 8, 2007: From the Telegraph: "an ABN Amro banking analyst, has labeled the marriage of HSBC and HFC a 'fatal attraction,' arguing that rising bad debts from the US business will not be offset by revenues. He calculates that HFC could easily charge $8.7bn of bad debts for the financial year to December 2007, up from $5.7bn for the current year... Sanford Bernstein's Antony Broadbent said: 'Our concern is that in 2007 and 2008, the increase in charge-offs will spread from the secured book to the unsecured book, which constitutes around two thirds of HFC's losses.' Broadbent points out that US personal financial services, the bulk of which come from HFC, accounted for 65pc of the group's impairment charge in 2005.
and " Sir Brian Moffatt and Baroness Dunn, neither of whom is viewed as independent, because of their length of service,"
and "there were raised eyebrows over HSBC's recent telephone briefing with analysts over its trading statement. Traditionally the domain of the finance director, on this occasion Mr Flint was interrupted several times by Mr Geoghegan, prompting speculation that there is tension between the two." Flint's arrogance on calls during HSBC - Household was legend...
Update of January 1, 2007: From the mailbag: In a message dated 12/26/2006 10:16:39 AM Eastern Standard Time, [name withheld] wrote to Inner City Press:
I have been plagued by deceitful practices with HSBC Mortgage. Unexplainable fees and also when I applied for hardship it was never disclosed about the "deferred interest" charges now totaling 10,000! I owe more than when I took out the loan. I am stuck in an arm at 12.6% unable to refinance with them or anyone else from the matter. I feel as though they want me to lose my house, they will not work with me. I'm stressed, tired and I owe more on my house than it is worth. I don't feel this is ethical or legal. They even are still charging me with hazardous insurance even though I've given them proof of insurance policy, but because I lapsed 1 month on insurance they claim I have to continue paying the hazard insurance- so that's double payments I'm making. That's just one example of the many charges that are crippling my financial status. I pray that others will share their nightmare with HSB and we can join together
Update of December 25, 2006: From London, the Daily Telegraph,
"one of the City's leading fund managers has expressed considerable concern about the fortunes of HSBC and the merits of its chairman, Stephen Green. Michael Taylor, head of equities at Threadneedle Investments... relayed his views based on a recent investor meeting with the HSBC chairman: "We had Stephen Green in here two weeks ago, and, cor, he was asleep on the job is how I would describe it. He's just not up for it.'' Asked if he thought HSBC has tarnished itself through the purchase of Household, its disappointing US sub-prime business, Mr Taylor said: "Yes, yes it has. It's been dreadful.''
Update of December 18, 2006: In subprime fall-out, HSBC, the world's third-largest bank, has seen a deterioration across its American mortgage operations. Combined third-quarter profits for the country's nine largest mortgage lenders were $991m, less than half the level for the same period last year. So says The Economist.
Update of December 11, 2006: With all the turmoil in the subprime lending field, worth noting is that on December 5, HSBC's share price fell around 2.7% following the pre-close announcement of earnings and predictions. HSBC's price is down almost 10% on its year high. This fall was attributed to the bank's comments on both the UK unsecured consumer and US secured consumer bad debt. HSBC said that "The trend of rising personal bankruptcies and IVAs seen since the second half of 2005 looks unlikely to abate in the medium term and continues to be the major influence on loan impairment charges in personal loans and credit cards." HSBC added that "challenges continue" in the US second mortgage market: more stringent underwriting in the high risk mortgage market has led to a fall in new business and that this lower level of generation is likely to continue, while the US unsecured consumer market is said to be performing well.
This last would mean, the high-cost personal loans through Household and Beneficial and also tax refund loans. The self-declared world's local bank is a predator...
Update of December 4, 2006: HSBC continues to grow in predatory lending. On December 1 it announced a plan to acquire 30,000 customers from KeyCorp's Champion Mortgage division. Some may remember that Champion kept making super high-cost HOEPA loans even after Key said it would stop. This is the type of business that HSBC is looking for -- including to take overseas.
Update of November 27, 2006: HSBC said last week it will try to keep its stake in Bank of Communications Co. at around 19.9% if the Chinese lender completes an intended share sale, despite concerns over valuations for Chinese banks. BoCom this month approved a plan to issue 4.5 billion yuan-denominated Class A shares in mainland China, and the sale is expected next year. HSBC would need to acquire more shares to prevent the dilution of its existing stake. Concerns over valuations arose after BBVA bought stakes in two banking units of China's Citic Group for US$1.27 billion at 3.3 times book value, a valuation that is higher than Western banks command. BoCom, China's fifth-largest lender by assets, has an even higher valuation: it trades at 3.7 times book value...
Update of November 20, 2006: HSBC will apply for a full banking service license in Thailand once the country's second phase of banking liberalization enters the final stages. "In Thailand, we are restricted to one branch which makes doing a retail bank quite difficult," Michael Smith, chief executive of HSBC's Asian banking unit said in a recent interview at the APEC summit in Vietnam. For now, Bank of Thailand regulations restrict foreign banks to having only one local unit in Thailand. "I would very much welcome the deregulation in Thailand," a move that could allow HSBC to operate the same services as domestic Thai banks, Smith said.
And if the past is any guide, HSBC would provide something not yet in Thailand -- systematically predatory consumer finance lending, which it acquired along with Household International...
Update of November 13, 2006: Regarding Taiwan, "We are not looking at anything right now," Michael Smith, chief executive of HSBC's Asian banking unit, said last week. "At present we have no plans" to buy any Taiwanese bank, he added. "The prices are too high. No doubt there needs to be further consolidation in the banking sector." This as HSBC's foreign policy...
Update of November 6, 2006: From the FT's Oct. 31 piece on HSBC:
"In Poland, for example, where about 77 per cent of banks are foreign owned, Unicredit is dominant after its acquisition of HVB. Others such as Allied Irish Banks, Citigroup and Commerzbank also have a presence. In the Czech Republic the market is dominated by overseas banks: Societe Generale - which owns Komercni Banka - as well as Erste Bank and KBC and Unicredit. KBC is also present in Hungary. What few acquisition opportunities remain are potentially expensive. For example Erste Bank recently won a state-run auction for Romanian bank BCR, paying Euros 3.75bn (Pounds 2.5bn) for a 61.9 per cent stake - or about five to six times price to book, or asset value, compared with about three times for a continental European bank. Robin Evans, banks analyst at Fox, Pitt Kelton, said in a recent report: "Central and eastern Europe is one of the few regions where HSBC has no material presence... In Poland, HSBC has just one branch in Warsaw for commercial and corporate banking and has no current retail banking license."
What they forget is the ex-Household subprime units...
Update of October 30, 2006: Gold worth over $1 million extracted by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has reportedly been found in HSBC, whose spokesman Gareth Hewett said, "Al insistírsele sobre el particular, aseguró: "No puedo confirmar ni desmentir. Sin comentario" (no comment). Later HSBC claimed the Chilean documents are forgeries, but another maintained their authenticity. We'll see.
Update of October 23, 2006: From the Chicago Sun Times of Oct. 16 --
"Not all lending officers seem clear on what the [Chicago anti-predatory lending] law requires. Maxine Hatchett, 56, of the Roseland neighborhood, was told by an HSBC Bank representative she'd have to pay for her counseling herself when she tried to refinance her home. After a reporter contacted HSBC, Hatchett was told she didn't need counseling after all, and her interest rate was switched from an adjustable rate of 9.175 percent to a fixed rate of 7.5 percent. Kate Durham, an HSBC spokeswoman, said she was confident that HSBC was treating its customers fairly, and that it was complying with the law."
In the UK last week, HSBC's system went down, causing chaos for its customers. A spokesman for HSBC said, "We had some issues which meant the card reader in the ATM or in the device in the shop were unable to communicate with our system and approve transactions. It was our fault." One await such admissions about HSBC's predatory lending.
Update of October 16, 2006: From the Sunday Telegraph of Oct. 8: "Spin over substance? 1 HSBC: has reduced its CO2 production from 550,000 tons to 0. Actual cost: $3 million." HSBC was sure given a lot of flattery for this $3 million. Meanwhile they steal that amount very quickly through their subprime ex-Household units...
Update of October 9, 2006: HSBC is now the seventh largest subprime mortgage servicer in the United States, ahead even of Wells Fargo, New Century and Ocwen. In terms of originations, subprime loans actually made, HSBC is number three. (NMN 10/9).
Update of October 2, 2006: From the Sunday Telegraph of Sept. 24: HSBC "bought Household International, a US consumer finance group, three years ago and Ken Harvey has been plucked from there to become head of IT for the whole bank. As HSBC transfers the technology acquired with Household to its operations round the world, costs should come down, with a resulting increase in profitability." So now all of HSBC's IT is run by predators....
Update of September 18, 2006: This week we'll let Mother Jones magazine's Sept.- Oct. story about predatory lenders in Cleveland, including HSBC, speak for itself:
"a week after New Year's, Wendy Wright asked her neighbor Will Lofton to hold her mail until the next time she came by. A few days later, a moving company piled her family's possessions in the street -- a snow-flocked display of furniture, sheets, sweaters, and board games, punctuated with an orgy of nude Barbie dolls. The movers had been hired by Household Realty Corp., a division of HSBC that lends to borrowers with low credit scores, including the woman who was Wright's landlord. Household bought back the house at a sheriff's sale in December. (Banks buy back their own property at foreclosure auctions because legally the houses still belong to the people who took out the mortgage; all the bank owns is the loan.) Household had already reclaimed a bungalow three doors down at 3422 East 76th, home to a couple who worked in the broom-and-mop factory nearby."
Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
Update of September 25, 2006: HSBC was tied for first place in the highest number of fines for violations from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control -- six, from 2003 through August 2006..
Update of September 11, 2006: From the Times of London of September 9: "Leading figures from the banking, advertising and hospitality industries will back a UK festival celebrating contemporary China, to be held in 2008. Stephen Green, the chairman of HSBC, will chair the committee organizing China Now." Uighurs, anyone?
From The Independent of September 5: "Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive of HSBC's investment bank, has been awarded shares worth pounds 29.5m over the past five years. [HSBC] was forced to disclose details of Mr Gulliver's shareholdings after his appointment to the boards of its four main operating subsidiaries." Ah, transparency...
Update of September 4, 2006: Who's number two, in the second quarter of 2006 in Subprime Residential Correspondent Lending? Why, it's the ex-Household HSBC Mortgage Services of Charlotte, NC, with $5.5 billion in subprime mortgage loans... And what did HSBC just announce a deal to buy? A direct-mail subprime lender of course: Solstice Capital Group. Quoted in HSBC's press release is the controversial ex-Household figure Tom Detelich. HSBC has turned its U.S. operations over to predators...
Update of August 28, 2006: HSBC in Ukraine -- Kiev-based OJSC Nadra Bank recently placed 7.7% of its stock among foreign investors, including Swedish investment company East Capital. The private placement was organized by HSBC...
Update of August 21, 2006: From the NY Times of August 17:
A federal appeals
court ruled on Wednesday that it was unconstitutional for Delaware
to deny public documents to nonresidents under a provision of the
state’s Freedom of Information Act. The ruling by the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia,
affirmed an earlier decision by a Federal District Court in
In 2003, Matthew Lee, a consumer advocate and lawyer who lives in New York, sued the State of Delaware for denying him access to documents related to a nationwide settlement with the consumer lender, Household International, after the company was investigated for deceptive lending practices. "We sought the records to be able to show how widespread the problem of predatory lending was within Household," said Mr. Lee, who is also the publisher of Inner City Press, a nonprofit Bronx newsletter about the practices of banking and financial services companies. M. Jane Brady, then the Delaware attorney general, denied Mr. Lee access to records regarding her handling of the settlement. Ms. Brady cited a provision of the state’s Freedom of Information Act law limiting access to records "to any citizen of the state." Mr. Lee then sued... In the 17-page decision, Judge D. Brooks Smith, writing for the three-judge circuit panel, said, "Delaware’s public records law discriminates on its face between citizens and non-citizens. Although the state has a substantial interest in ‘defining its political community,’ the citizens-only provision” of the law bore no “substantial relationship to that interest,” Judge Smith wrote. Delaware’s current attorney general, Carl C. Danberg, said Wednesday that he would not appeal... While he said the state had been processing other freedom of information requests to comply with the earlier ruling, Mr. Danberg said that Mr. Lee would still not receive the Household documents because they were protected under a separate Delaware law by an "investigative file privilege." Mr. Lee was surprised by the news and called the decision "an outrage." He questioned why he could not receive the documents, particularly, he said, "because other states have given us reams of documents about their settlements on predatory lending with Household"
-- now owned by HSBC...
Update of August 14, 2006: HSBC now in the predatory lending hunt in Japan, per the FT of August 12: " Yasuo Takei, the influential founder and former chairman of Takefuji, the Japanese consumer finance group, died yesterday, the company said. He was 76. The death of Mr Takei, one of Japan's richest men, immediately prompted speculation that Takefuji - already the subject of take-over talk - might become more attractive as a target. Bid speculation has surrounded the lender since Mr Takei was forced to cut his stake in the company from 60 per cent to below 25 per cent after he was convicted in 2004 for wiretapping the home of a journalist who had been critical of Takefuji. Under Japanese law, a convicted criminal cannot hold more than 25 per cent of a listed company...Japan's consumer finance companies have also been hit by a Supreme Court ruling this year that made it easier for borrowers to reclaim a significant part of their interest payments they have already made. Several foreign groups had expressed interested in Takefuji - including HSBC..."
Update of August 7, 2006: As wryly noted by the FT, "HSBC's six branches in Lebanon were open for business yesterday... some UK investors still harbour apocalyptic visions of uncreditworthy Americans defaulting as soon as their economy slows down." Not that apocalyptic...
Update of July 31, 2006: Of all credit card companies doing business in the United States, HSBC is the most active in seeking to buy political influence -- that is, in donations to federal political candidates in the 2006 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings... Meanwhile, HSBC continues exporting Household's predatory lending. In Brazil, HSBC says it plans to sign 20 operating partnerships with retailers through its consumer finance unit Losango by the end of this year. "Ten partnerships are already wrapped up," HSBC Losango CEO Henrique Frayha said. Losango announced a partnership with regional retailer Ricardo Eletro from the state of Minas Gerais...
Update of July 24, 2006: HSBC and
mining -- in investment banking news, look at Phelps Dodge
Corp.-Inco Ltd., a 17.6 billion announced in late June, from
which HSBC stands to make $12 million (or $20 if Falconbridge
Ltd. gets in on the action). But what of HSBC's supposed
environmental standards? Ask HSBC Securities Inc.'s George
Foussianes and Graham Shuttleworth -- and higher up. We'll have
more on this, and on matters Central American, in the near
Update of July 17, 2006: HSBC, exporting the subprime practices it acquired along with Household International, now says it want 8 percent of the Brazilian credit card market by the end of 2007. "Low-income customers are the fastest-growing segment within the consumer credit business - 35% a year for the past five years - while average growth for the whole segment was around 25%," said Henrique Frayha, CEO of Losango, the consumer finance arm of HSBC in Brazil. HSBC Brasil currently holds a 4% market share in the local credit card segment -- it aims with Household's practices to double that...
Update of July 10, 2006: From an HSBC press release on July 6: "HSBC Mortgage Services, a subsidiary of HSBC North America Holdings Inc., will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony today in Fort Mill, South Carolina... The move comes as a result of major employee growth within HSBC Mortgage Services. More than 650 current employees will move into the facility this summer, with expansion planned in the coming years... In keeping with HSBC's commitment to the environment, the new facility is designated Class "A" and will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified... HSBC is helping to tackle one of the world's largest environmental challenges, climate change, by becoming the first major bank to go on carbon neutral."
What they don't mention is that the business *inside* the green building has settled charges of predatory lending, and continues these practices -- green, of course...
Update of July 3, 2006: Under investigation and offering no comment is HSBC Rail UK...
Update of June 26, 2006: HSBC's passage in India, from Business Today of July 2, reporting that " HSBC is now targeting consumers who earn Rs 3,500-10,000 a month" and interviewing HSBC's Nicolas G. Winsor, who said: "The emerging middle class is large, estimated at 31 million households, and growing. But the credit requirements of this group tend to be met through informal sources. We saw an opportunity to leverage our global expertise in consumer finance to address a market need. Our strategy is to help these individuals to get credit through small-value loans."
How many customers do you have in this segment?
"This is still a relatively new business, but we have received over 100,000 loan requests since we opened less than a year ago. This gives you an idea of the unfulfilled demand for consumer credit in this market."
What is the potential of this market?
"Consumer lending is estimated at 5-6 per cent of GDP in India, compared to around 30 per cent in developed economies. With changing borrowing and consumption patterns in India, we forecast considerable growth in the years ahead."
Yes, with Household International's predatory model...
Update of June 19, 2006: HSBC months ago categorically denied the contents of ICP's report on its violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, by limiting the required interest rate reductions to those in "hostile zones" rather those on active duty. Now, in a response to ICP's initial comments on HSBC's applications to put its high-cost tax refund loan operation into a previously-trust bank in Delaware, HSBC finally admits: "a situation did exist where a few employees of Household Credit Card Services, a division of what is now HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A. (an affiliate of HSBC Trust Company (Delaware), National Association) did not follow this bank's SSCRA policy and erroneously restricted benefits under SSCRA to only those military personnel deployed in hostile or combat zones." So what happens now?
Update of June 12, 2006: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has just learned that a stealth application by HSBC, filed with the Federal Reserve and FDIC, to convert a trust bank, actually involves creating a national platform for HSBC's high-cost tax Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs). On May 19, ICP submitted an initial comment to the FDIC and asked for a copy of the application, since the public notice did not explain what the conversion was about. ICP has just received the application, which states
"RALs are the primary business driver... Notable business relationships include: H&R Block," Jackson Hewitt, Drake, UTS, Petz and Orrtax. "HTCD is seeking regulatory approval to expand its limited purpose trust charter into a full service national bank. With an expanded charter, HTCD will originate all refund lending business under the Block agreement and for all other refund lending business tax preparers in states outside HBUS's current footprint. Servicing for the products continue to be per formed [sic] by HSBC Taxpayer Financial Services (TFS) through its Bridgewater, New Jersey administration center as well as operational sites in New Castle, Delaware and India."
HSBC did not disclose in the applications the interest rates at which its RALs are made (often well over 100% interest), nor the controversies including but not limited to class actions that have followed this line of business, from Household/Beneficial to HSBC. ICP's initial comment to the FDIC, even before it could know what this application was about, noted that earlier this year, a federal judge denied even preliminary approval to HSBC’s and H&R Block’s attempt to settle-on-the-cheap a class action for high-cost tax Refund Anticipation Loans. Judge Elaine Bucklo of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said the proposed settlement did not offer enough value to those ripped-off by HSBC’s loans (not unlike HSBC-Household’s 2002 predatory mortgage lending settlement with state attorneys general). This rejected settlement would have divided among 28 million customers a $110 million cash payment and $250 million in coupons, each with a $6 face value, redeemable for... H&R Block tax services. Judge Bucklo said the coupons offered little value. "It seems likely that the $6 coupon fee would simply be lost in higher fees and it is at any rate too little to be meaningful," she wrote. "The coupons here appear to be the classic free advertising, which Block is free to provide, but which cannot be given value in considering the reasonableness of a settlement... At the very least, counsel for plaintiffs, who should not need reminding that they owe a fiduciary duty to every member of the plaintiff class, need to obtain and present the best possible proposal for giving reasonable and adequate notice to the class, and to provide the court with a reasoned analysis of how many claims are likely to be made," Bucklo wrote. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an earlier settlement.
Just last week, the American Banker newspaper reported that HSBC is now making "pay stub" loans, a new low (and a new high, in terms of interest rates).
It was and is disingenuous to not include information about RALs in the application and especially the notice thereof -- the FDIC and Federal Reserve comment periods must be reopened and credible notice given. ICP is contesting the withholding of the Business Plan, "Confidential" Exhibit 1, and board information (Exhibits 2-5), loan policies (Exhibit 11), and insider transactions, etc. (Exhibit 6).
HSBC is a regulatory "player" -- in its acquisition of Household International, for example, Household's savings bank was extinguished and some operations sold to Panhandle Bank, for the sole purpose of avoiding an applications process. Since then, HSBC has played arbitrage and shifted its charter from (New York) state to national, and its bank headquarters from Buffalo to Delaware. In Delaware, HSBC has gotten the state Attorney General to use specious grounds to withhold information about complaints against its subprime lending, specious grounds rejected by the federal district court and debated, on the state's appeal, in Federal appeals court in Philadelphia last month (see, e.g., Dow Jones and AP of May 11, 2006, NY Times and Wilmington News-Journal of May 12, 2006).
Now HSBC has quietly applied to convert its previously limited purpose trust bank to a full service bank, to do its RALs. ICP has opposed it; developing.
Update of June 5, 2006: Last week HSBC's jocular CFO Doug Flint opined on consumer credit and the Federal Reserve, which he proclaimed will raise interest rates once or twice more in 2006 though, he said, it is unclear whether the Fed will choose to raise rates at its next meeting or hold off for a period. "Anyone who predicts we are past the worst is being a bit over-optimistic," he said, adding that HSBC is contacting customers sooner when they fall behind with payments. Hey, during HSBC-Household, some consumers' loans were unilaterally rewritten, to make the rotten operation look better...
Update of May 29, 2006: And now John Bond is gone, the man who bought Household, or at least pulled the trigger on that deal. Having set in motion the spread of predatory lending to the four corners of the globe, Bond now goes to Vodaphone, leaving in his place Stephen Green.
Update of May 22, 2006: HSBC financial group chief Doug Flint, flaunter of Reg FD during HSBC-Household, said last week in New York "We find it intriguing at the moment to see so many of the Wall Street firms seeking to find mortgage origination capacity to feed their asset-backed securities businesses at a time when mortgage origination volumes may fall." Flint also implicitly acknowledged that HSBC is no expert in securitization, despite being knee deep in subprime with its Household units... Update of May 15, 2006: In Brazil, a battlefield for subprime lending dominance between HSBC and Citigroup, HSBC is rumored to be on the hunt for local bank UniCredito, according to Business News America. Meanwhile in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2006, HSBC jumped to Number Two in subprime lending. The whole company's gone subprime.. On May 11, 2006 in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, argument were heard in Inner City Press' ongoing case seeking documents from the Delaware Attorney General about the predatory lending settlement of Household International, now HSBC. Delaware refused to provide any records, saying the Inner City Press request came from out of state. Subsequently the Federal district court in Wilmington declared Delaware's "citizens-only" Freedom of Information Act to be unconstitutional; Delaware appealed, and three judges heard it on May 11. As recounted in the next day's New York Times, "At the hearing Thursday, a state deputy attorney general, W. Michael Tupman, argued that Delaware had the right to set limits to its records to 'help define the political community and strengthen the bond between citizens and their government.' Judge D. Brooks Smith asked, 'How does restricting a noncitizen strengthen that bond?'" To that, there was no answer. Delaware pressed a narrow definition of journalism, despite (as recounted by Dow Jones), acknowledging that ICP and its requester's "'achievements are truly remarkable on a national level,' Tupman told the court [adding] Delaware fears being deluged with requests for public records if the state's FOIA law is held unconstitutional.'" Too much open government is hardly our problem. We want the HSBC predatory lending documents and we are pursuing them.
Update of May 8, 2006: If RBS has Fred the Shred, at HSBC is it Mean Steve Green? Layoffs and office closings post-Metris in three states: " HSBC Finance Corp. will close its south Orlando call center by October, eliminating nearly 300 jobs, the credit-card company acknowledged on May 2 to the Sentinel's intrepid Rich Burnett, who reported that HSBC "will also close similar telephone-service operations in Duluth, Minn., and Scottsdale, Ariz... All three centers are part of Minnesota-based Metris... The Orlando call center employed nearly 400 people at its peak three years ago, as Metris' main telemarketing arm for the Hispanic market. Metris had acquired the operation from Banco Popular, the Puerto Rico-based bank, in mid-2000... When it acquired Metris -- the 11th-largest card company -- HSBC said the addition would complement its existing businesses because Metris focused on low- and middle-income clientele, many with blemished credit files. Metris also had a series of legal, financial and regulatory problems prior to the acquisition." Which is also consonant with HSBC's ex-Household units, with their past (and present) "legal, financial and regulatory problems."
Update of May 1, 2006, edited May 8, 2006 -- This is an alternate HSBC/Household-in-Europe report, this time not from Inner City Press but from the Sunday Business Post in Ireland --
Back in the U.S., HSBC put out a press release bragging "it has reached a five-year agreement to brand the interior and exterior of the 108 jetbridges at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the first major airport branding agreement in North America." Hmm. RBS has had its signed on airports for a while now, including Frankfurt and LaGuardia. What constitutes "major" seems to be a mere matter of HSBC's point of view, as does how Household-in-Europe should be reported on.
Update of April 24, 2006: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has conducted a comparative study of 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, this time focused on New York City, and has found that in Bronx County in 2005, HSBC was the largest subprime lender of the NYAG Four (that is, Citi, Wells and Chase). HSBC's March 29 letter to Inner City Press accompanying its data is nearly identical to Citigroup's, concluding that "had the yield spread between short term and long term interest rates stayed at the 2004 levels, far fewer longer maturity loans would have exceeded the thresholds in 2005. Consequently, a meaningful comparison of the rates at which loans exceeded the rate spread between 2004 and 2005 cannot be made." While it may be true that a comparison of the raw percentages of a lender's 2004 and 2005 loans that exceeded the rate spread should also take into account "the effect of monetary policy," there is no reason that the disparities between white and African Americans and Latinos cannot be compared year to year. In this comparison, HSBC was more disparate in 2005 than in 2004.
Meanwhile, HSBC is trying yet another lawsuit settlement about its super high-cost tax refund anticipation loans. Its April 19 press release does not mention HSBC, however, but only Beneficial National Bank, listing Diane Soucy Bergan. For shame...
Update of April 17, 2006: HSBC's over five thousand super high cost HOEPA loans in 2005 were all reported through "HMS" (presumably Household Mortgage Services), under a Respondent ID that wasn't even used in 2004... Doing business anywhere -- on April 11, HSBC announced that its Saudi British Bank recorded a first-quarter net profit of SAR 986 million. "Despite recent volatility in the local equity market, our financial performance remains strong and retains good growth momentum, not least due to our close focus on the core fundamentals of our business," said John Coverdale, managing director of The Saudi British Bank, or SABB. The bank is a 40% indirectly-held associate of HSBC Holdings plc. These partial stakes are a set-up for compliance problems...
Update of April
10, 2006: The 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data,
which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch received in late
March from HSBC, reveal that at HSBC in 2005, less than
half of upper income white borrowers were confined to rate spread
loans, versus 61.87% of upper income African Americans and an even
higher percentage of Latinos, 62.82%. The Federal Reserve has
defined higher-cost loans as those loans with annual percentage
rates above the rate spread of three percent over the yield on
Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans,
five percent on subordinate liens. HSBC, which bought
Household International in 2002 just after its predatory lending
settlement, has increased the interest rates changed by its former
Household units. Over eighty percent of HSBC's home purchase loans
to African Americans and Latinos were higher-cost loans over the
rate spread, much higher than in 2004 at these ex-Household units.
In Buffalo, HSBC's long-time headquarters, HSBC in 2005 confined
African Americans to higher cost rate spread loans 2.15 times more
frequently than whites. In 2005, HSBC made over five
thousand super high-cost l