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Summary

  1. HSBC bosses answer questions over Swiss tax scandal
  2. HSBC boss 'not accountable' for individuals' actions
  3. Argentina demands $3.5bn from HSBC

Live Reporting

By Chris Johnston

All times stated are UK

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Apple Watch

Tim Cook
Engadget

And the last word from Business Live today: the Apple Watch will be able to show a Mickey Mouse face... Thanks to

Engadget.com for the picture. We're back at 0600 tomorrow - thanks for reading today.

Barclays board

Following a

call from the LAPFF pension fund for Sir John Sutherland to step down immediately as chairman of Barclays' remuneration committee, the bank said that Crawford Gillies would assume the role after the annual meeting on 23 April. Barclays rejected the claim that it had broken a promise about the timing of Sir John's departure.

Apple launch

Apple
Getty Images

Meanwhile, in life outside Westminster, Tim Cook is on stage in San Francisco to launch the Apple Watch and a new range of Macintosh computers. Health apps will be a major feature of the new smartwatch - and Mr Cook stresses that Apple will not be able to see customer data.

HSBC hearing

So that's it from the HSBC trio. The Public Accounts Committee had been due to hold another session today to hear from Edward Troup, second permanent secretary and tax assurance commissioner of HMRC, and Dave Hartnett, the former permanent secretary. However, Mr Hartnett was not able to attend and Mrs Hodge suggested that the session be postponed until both were able to attend.

HSBC hearing

Tory MP Stephen Hammond goes in to bat for Rona Fairhead, and says that Mrs Hodge should have directed some of her comments towards Mr Meares, whom he describes as a "wholly unreliable witness".

HSBC hearing

Mrs Hodge says Ms Fairhead was either "incredibly naive or totally incompetent" in her stewardship of HSBC, which gave the MP no confidence in her ability to oversee the BBC, in her role as the chair of the BBC Trust. "You should think about resigning" from the BBC role, Mrs Hodge says, or the government should think about sacking her if she did not go.

HSBC hearing

Margaret Hodge
BBC

Mrs Hodge gets increasingly wound up as she reads out a series of instances about action taken by HSBC's Swiss private bank staff in relation to reducing the tax burden for clients, which she labels "tax avoidance on an industrial scale". Mr Meares says he was not aware of these practices, which included "endless visits" by Swiss staff to Britain to get customers to sign documents. "I don't believe you didn't know Mr Meares," Mrs Hodge says.

HSBC hearing

In relation to the information derived from the Herve Falciani data theft, Ms Fairhead says the bank was initially told it related to seven accounts. It was contacted by HMRC and "immediately got an independent review done" to ensure HSBC was not assisting tax evasion.

HSBC hearing

Mr Gulliver says that the structure of HSBC had been "out of date and diluted by multiple acquisitions", but insists that the changes made in recent years have rectified those problems.

HSBC hearing

MPs seem grumpiest with Ms Fairhead, who was chair of the board's risk committee. Mrs Hodge says HSBC's board appears to have been "completely seduced by structures".

HSBC hearing

Margaret Hodge
BBC

Mrs Hodge twists the knife again, telling the witnesses that HSBC appears to be "rich in bureaucracy and very, very short on common sense". She adds: "When things go wrong in the public sector on your watch you resign. No one has deigned to accept responsibility."

HSBC hearing

When asked about the inconsistency between his personal tax affairs using a Panamanian shell company and the bank's overall actions, Mr Gulliver says: "I can see how you might see some inconsistency."

HSBC hearing

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC chief executive
BBC

Mr Gulliver is asked again about "hold mail" accounts. "Hold mail wasn't something for me to look at", he responds, but the issue struck him as high risk after he became group chief executive.

HSBC hearing

Was HSBC different to other banks? Mr Meares says he thinks HSBC's practices in Switzerland were similar to other banks at the time.

HSBC hearing

Mrs Hodge says she has never seen a non-executive director getting paid half a million pounds a year. Ms Fairhead explains she is paid £334,000 for her role as non-executive chairman of HSBC's US operations, as well as a director of HSBC Holdings - the parent company.

Via Twitter

Kamal Ahmed

BBC Business editor

MPs on the PAC accuse HSBC of "complete managerial incompetence" over lack of knowledge of Swiss evasion

HSBC hearing

Mr Meares said he did not know whether the Swiss executives were lying or did not know what was going on: "The issues didn't come up through the board - I don't know whether the individual executives knew whether anything wrong was going on."

HSBC hearing

Rona Fairhead says: "As we acquired more businesses it became more complex and there were a huge number of standards on money laundering and tax that we were complying with. We got to the stage where a 100-year-old structure was no longer fit for purpose."

HSBC hearing

Rona Fairhead, who is a director on the HSBC board, is asked why the bank's overall results for 2007 specifically mention Switzerland. She says the amalgamation of a series of private banks were responsible for the rise in profits from the Swiss private operations.

HSBC hearing

Rona Fairhead
BBC

Rona Fairhead, whose board responsibilities included overseeing risk, says "first and foremost" the people who were "most culpable" in the tax scandal are those people who evade taxes. Next, "frontline staff" who were breaching HSBC's policies were to blame. She also holds the management in Switzerland responsible for not putting in place the correct controls.

HSBC hearing

The Swiss managers at HSBC followed very strict secrecy laws, so senior managers in London did not know who held accounts, says Chris Meares, former head of the private bank. There were "maybe a few" he knew about, he adds.

Via Twitter

Kamal Ahmed

BBC Business editor

Chris Meares says he was unaware of clients taking "bricks" of millions of pounds of cash out of HSBC private bank in Switzerland

@bbckamal

HSBC hearing

Money laundering events in Mexico prompted the boss Stuart Gulliver to change the "loose federalised" structure of the bank.

HSBC hearing

Mr Meares is asked about "hold mail" accounts and why some clients might want such a service (no post or correspondence is sent on such accounts). He says it pertained to confidentiality and security issues and that the bank no longer offers hold mail accounts. There were 14,868 such accounts in 2012, Mr Gulliver says - now there are 12.

HSBC hearing

Pressed by the MPs about whether he would take "fairly direct" responsibility for the Swiss tax scandal, Mr Meares responds: "I take responsibility for control failings that may have happened". A lengthy discussion then ensues as MPs try to get a yes or no answer from Mr Meares about whether he was responsible. He says he was not accountable for the actions of individuals at the Swiss bank that he was "wholly unaware of".

HSBC hearing

Chris Meares, former head of HSBC's private banking business
BBC

Chris Meares, who was previously head of HSBC's private banking business, is asked by Margaret Hodge to defend himself against being the "fall guy" for the Swiss tax scandal. He says he was responsible for HSBC's private banking operations in 90 countries - including Switzerland.

Via Twitter

Mark Broad

Economics reporter, BBC News

CEO of HSBC, Stuart Gulliver, admits has been reputational damage to the bank over his Panamanian pay structure, but blames 'media innuendo'

HSBC hearing

Stuart Gulliver, chief executive, HSBC
BBC

Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, asks Stuart Gulliver how HSBC customers can have confidence in the bank given his past taxation arrangements. He said he paid PAYE tax in the UK on his global earnings. After becoming the bank's boss he became a UK tax resident and insists his personal financial affairs were not put ahead of HSBC's interests.

HSBC hearing

We're getting set for HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver and the former head of the bank's private banking division, Chris Meares, to give evidence to MPs on the Public Accounts Committee shortly. BBC Trust boss Rona Fairhead will also face questions about her role as a director of the bank.

Greek banks

Deposit levels in Greek banks appear to have been stabilising, with some days of net inflows as well as some of net outflows following the deal to extend Greece's bailout programme last month, a European Central Bank source said. There was "volatility in deposits, both ways" but he added: "If anything, we have seen some stabilisation in the last two weeks."

Mall mania

Simon Property
Simon Property Group

Excitement in the world of US shopping centres today after Simon Property Group made a hostile bid worth about $16bn for rival mall owner Macerich after it refused an offer to open talks. A deal would combine two of America's largest mall operators. Simon thinks Macerich shareholders will accept its $91 a share proposal.

Oil price

Oil pump in Bahrain
AP

Is the oil price set to rise? Hedge funds and large speculative investors seem to think so. According to Reuters the number of bets placed last week on higher Brent crude oil prices were at their highest since July 2014. Speculators increased their "long" positions in Brent futures and options by 9,578 contracts to a total of 192,361, data from InterContinentalExchange showed.

M&S dividend

M&S
Getty Images

Interesting move by Marks & Spencer - it will offer its 190,000 private UK shareholders a gift card rather than a dividend payment, at a 10% discount. The retailer paid a dividend of 17p a share last year - a yield of about 3.4%. "Our private investors are also some of our most loyal customers and we're continually looking at how we can best engage this important group of stakeholders," said Amanda Mellor, M&S group secretary. Would you swap your divi for a gift card? bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Via Blog

Robert Peston

Economics editor

In the light of Ed Balls's speech today, which claims that the Tories would cut public spending by a further £70bn if they were to win the general election, I need to slightly amend my judgement that next week's Budget is bound to be the dullest on record.

Read why here.

US rates

Most US business economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in the second half of this year, according to a poll by the National Association of Business Economists. They also said uncertainty over the Fed's plans is no longer slowing US economic recovery. Of the 293 economists polled, 71% said they expect the Federal Open Market Committee to raise the federal funds target rate this year.

Market update

The prospect of higher US interest rates and more uncertainty over Greece meant that the

FTSE 100 continued its retreat from a record high. The index was down 0.49% at 6877.82 points.
WPP led the risers, up 1.62% on the back of
stronger profit figures. But
Tullow Oil continued its decline, falling 3%. The pound, which has been at a seven high against the euro, continued to strengthen and stood at 1.39 versus the single currency.

McDonald's

Steve Easterbrook
AFP

Evidence that McDonald's new boss, UK-born Steve Easterbrook, faces a difficult job. Global sales fell in February, including a 4% drop in the US, where the hamburger chain said it faced "aggressive competitive activity". In the division including Asia, the Middle East and Africa, sales were down 4.4%. But Europeans were eating more, with sales edging 0.7% higher. Mr Easterbrook started as chief executive last week, which coincided with a "Turnaround Summit" for US franchisees.

Bad gold

gold
Science Photo Library

Bloomberg News reports on the money being made from illegal exports of gold and diamonds fuelling conflict in the Central African Republic. At least 3,000 people have died and about 1 million have fled their homes to neighbouring countries or camps, the newswire reports.

Eurogroup

Jeroen Dijsselbloem
AFP

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said a list of reforms proposed by Greece in return for further financial aid was "far from complete". Dutch finance minister Mr Dijsselbloem was referring to a letter received from his Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis. It suggests reforms to convince creditors to agree to hand over the next tranche of bailout money. The Eurogroup is a meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

Dilbert

Today's Dilbert is for those wanting to

crack the perfect system at work.