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HSBC – the bank ‘you cannot afford to offend’ – stops advertising with The Guardian

By Dominic Ponsford and William Turvill

The Guardian has revealed that the bank HSBC has stopped advertising with the title following its coverage of the bank’s involvement in a tax-avoidance scandal.

The paper began coverage of the HSBC files last Monday. Using data from a whistleblower it revealed how thousands of suspected tax evaders used HSBC’s Swiss private bank.

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson said: "During the course of editorial discussions between Guardian journalists and HSBC's lawyers, HSBC decided to put its commercial relationship with the Guardian on pause – a decision which, to the best of our knowledge, still stands."

Former Telegraph chief political commentator Peter Oborne claimed yesterday that commercial pressure from the bank led “nothing unfavourable of any substance” about it to appear in the paper for two years.

Highlighting the paper’s scant coverage of the HSBC scandal, Oborne said one executive told him HSBC is "the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend".

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Oborne said: "It looks to an outsider very much as if it is using advertising as a tool to suppress free speech. 

"And they need to explain why they suspended their advertising in The Guardian last week and in the Telegraph three years ago.”

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Oborne also called for an independent review to be held into the Telegraph's coverage of HSBC.

Today, The Guardian confirmed that since it began running stories about the “HSBC files” the bank's advertising with the paper has been on “pause”.

According to national press marketing body Newsworks, HSBC was the 46th biggest national press advertiser in the year to August 2014 – spending some £5.1m across the various Fleet Street titles.

HSBC declined to comment when contacted by Press Gazette.

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