HLBC: What the ‘L’?

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Much of Euromoney’s editorial desk is rather obsessed with the US TV drama Homeland. The ‘is or isn’t he a terrorist’ twists surrounding former US marine Nick Brody have kept us all hooked, despite the increasingly far-fetched storylines the writers of the series have offered up.

Series three sees what is left of the CIA, following a bomb attack on its Langley headquarters that killed most senior staff, trying to shut down the terrorist network behind the blast.

In a rare moment founded in reality, the CIA’s attention turned to a financial institution that was laundering and funnelling money on behalf of the group.

But did the series stray too close to reality? The bank in question turned out to be none other than HLBC.

Sound familiar? It certainly will have done to employees of HSBC, which last year was forced to admit to failings in its money-laundering controls and paid a fine to the US authorities of $1.9 billion.

In Homeland, the CEO of HLBC initially refused to divulge any details of the payment network. He changed his mind when, leaving a restaurant, he was threatened by Quinn, a black ops agent, with life-changing consequences if he failed to deliver. Which he promptly did.

We trust that Stuart Gulliver, HSBC’s chief executive, has never faced such pressure from the authorities.