Where were HSBC’s auditors?

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The HSBC issue is not likely to go away for a day or two.

Let me ask a question then that needs to be asked. Where were the auditors? It is true that auditors are not meant to detect and prevent all fraud. They are meant to identify material risk to the business. A potentially fraudulent business model, which is the nub of the HSBC accusations, is however well within the range of risks that I think any auditor should have identified.

KPMG were HSBC auditors from 1991 to 2013.

I have no idea whether or not KPMG did a good or bad job at HSBC. They did not qualify the accounts.

What I do know is that during that same period KPMG were fined for partaking in criminal tax activity in the USA.

And that a former KPMG senior partner became chair of HMRC.

Whilst another became chair of the Financial Conduct Authority that regulates banks.

Whilst moving in the opposite direction, the former head of the anti-avoidance group at HMRC is now a KPMG director.

None were, I suspect, involved in HSBC. KPMG is a big organisation. But it would be a better organisation if it just did its job properly and if it did not wish to spend rather too much time spreading its tentacles into places where its influence might lead to doubt as to the objectivity of our regulatory authorities when looking at its activities.

KPMG's audits may have been fine.

HMRC's actions might have been fine.

But because of the links and KPMG's own past I do not think current structures are capable of objectively forming that conclusion.

And that worries me.