Have HSBC misled the Treasury Select Committee?

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Chris Meares, CEO of HSBC private banking, gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on Offshore Financial Centres yesterday. They have, apparently, also submitted written evidence.

In that evidence they have apparently claimed that the proportion of assets offshore has fallen from 'about a third' in 1996 to 20% in 2005. They made some play on this in oral evidence, saying it was indication of the declining scale of this issue. They made clear: the trend was downward. Meares was asked by a member of the committee what the source of his evidence was. He said it was the Cap Gemini / Merrill Lynch World Wealth reports.

Now, I happen to know these reports quite well. They were one of the sources used for the TJN report ' The Price of Offshore', that I researched. And I was flabbergasted to hear the suggestion made that the 2005 report said that there were only 20% asset holdings offshore. I have read the World Wealth Report for that year time and again and have never seen that figure quoted.

But let's have it from the horses' mouth in the 1998 World Wealth Report, covering 1996 data:

HSBC got that right then.

Now lets turn to the 2005 report, which this comes from:

Reference 16 is to Cap Gemini surveys: the 30% can only mean offshore tax havens in the context of this quotation. And let's be clear: this was the minimum ratio noted. I have checked the report for any reference to 20%. There is none that I can find.

Take this as well, from the same report:

Again, that is an exact copy of the report. Unambiguously it says the trend is upward. It's a message that the report repeats in other forms, elsewhere.

I come to one conclusion and that is that HSBC appear to have misled the Treasury Select Committee. Why did they do that, I wonder?