Business | Banking

HSBC to pay record $1.9b US fine

HSBC CEO apologises, admits to breakdown of controls

  • Reuters
  • Published: 19:29 December 11, 2012
  • Gulf News

New York: HSBC has agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion (Dh7.06 billion) fine to settle a multi-year probe by US prosecutors, who accused Europe’s biggest bank of failing to enforce rules designed to prevent the laundering of criminal cash.

HSBC Holdings Plc admitted to a breakdown of controls and apologised in a statement on Tuesday announcing it had reached a deferred-prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice.

“We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again. The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organisation from the one that made those mistakes,” said Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver.

“Over the last two years, under new senior leadership, we have been taking concrete steps to put right what went wrong and to participate actively with government authorities in bringing to light and addressing these matters.”

The US Senate panel alleged that HSBC failed to maintain controls designed to prevent money laundering by drug cartels, terrorists and tax cheats, when acting as a financier to clients routing funds from places including Mexico, Iran and Syria.

The bank was unable to properly monitor $15 billion in bulk cash transactions between mid-2006 and mid-2009, and had inadequate staffing and high turnover in its compliance units, July’s report said.

HSBC on Tuesday said it expected to also reach a settlement with British watchdog the Financial Services Authority. T he FSA declined to comment.

US and European banks have now agreed to settlements with US regulators totalling some $5 billion in recent years on charges they violated US sanctions and failed to police potentially illicit transactions.

No bank or bank executives, however, have been indicted, as prosecutors have instead used deferred prosecutions - under which criminal charges against a firm are set aside if it agrees to conditions such as paying fines and changing behaviour.

HSBC’s settlement also includes agreements or consent orders with the Manhattan district attorney, the Federal Reserve and three US Treasury Department units: the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Comptroller of the Currency and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Last month, HSBC told investors it had set aside $1.5 billion to cover fines or penalties stemming from the inquiry and warned costs could be significantly higher.

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