Author: Niall Hearty 3 March 2022
More than 500 investors are now involved in a legal action against HSBC over Disney film financing tax schemes.
The High Court has combined two separate group claims targeting the bank, meaning that 177 investors are being added to a legal action that already involved 371.
The investors are suing the bank for what they say are losses caused by HSBC’s marketing of film financing schemes called Eclipse Partnerships. In their claim, investors accuse HSBC of conspiring with Eclipse to persuade them to buy the film rights to blockbuster films in a tax deferral scheme. The investors, who were presented with large tax bills by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), are arguing that HSBC is liable for fraud.
The investors believed they would benefit from tax relief by putting their money into film productions, with any losses being written off against their tax bills. But HMRC denied them tax breaks because either the movies were not made or those receiving tax breaks did little to promote the productions.
Eclipse was open to investors between 2006 and 2008. Investors involved in the legal action say that while it was marketed as a legitimate, tax-efficient investment, HSBC misrepresented the true nature of the business activities.
HSBC has said that it did not promote tax investment products. It has said that Eclipse was operated and promoted by Future Capital Partners, which went into liquidation in 2018.
The case is expected to be heard in 2024, when the cases of 28 investors – referred to as sample claimants – will go before the court.
This legal action follows HMRC’s settlement offer late last year to current and former members of Eclipse. Under the proposal, HMRC agreed to settle with Eclipse investors if they gave up their interest relief claims, paid the tax avoided, paid interest on the tax paid late and gave up any Eclipse-related legal actions which involved HMRC
While an HMRC settlement may have saved some investors from financial ruin and years of uncertainty, the legal action against HSBC involves investors seeking legal remedies for losses they believe were caused by HSBC through its development and marketing of the film financing scheme.
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