$1.92B Settlement for ‘Too Big to Fail’ Bank Busted for Laundering Terrorist and Drug Cartel Money

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Europe’s largest bank, agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle U.S. probes of money laundering in the largest such accord ever.

The settlement includes a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the London-based bank said today in a statement. HSBC expects to complete an undertaking with the U.K. Financial Services Authority soon, it said, without providing specifics.

Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver’s attempts to reduce costs and improve profitability have been hurt by the U.S. probes and by compensation claims from U.K. clients. A Senate committee said in July that lax oversight by top HSBC executives gave terrorists and drug cartels access to the U.S. financial system.

“This has removed an uncertainty, though it doesn’t clear the path completely for HSBC,” Lewis Wan, Hong Kong-based chief investment officer at Pride Investments Group Ltd., said by telephone today, adding that his company doesn’t hold HSBC shares. “Regulators have been tightening oversight of banks. Lenders like HSBC will have to continue to strengthen their compliance.”

In a deferred prosecution agreement, the government allows a target to avoid charges by meeting certain conditions — including the payment of fines or penalties — and by committing to specific reforms, either under the guidance of a monitor, or the creation of an internal compliance panel.

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