Wednesday, December 12, 2012

HSBC: We're Profoundly Sorry and Totally Different Now. Promise.

NPR reports. They may be even more profoundly sorry and more totally different if as expected additional agreements will emerge with other countries, e.g. the UK.  NPR reported that HSBC is not the only foreign bank to be accused of money laundering recently, and that Britain's Standard Chartered "agreed to pay $327 million to settle charges that it helped Iran and other countries evade U.S. sanctions."

But there is a real sense that the fine won't make them sorry enough: the Guardian is alarmed at the prospect that (1) the fine might not cause sufficient pain to the wrongdoers and those that (continue to) profit by the wrongdoing and (2) governments see banks as too-big-to-prosecute:

Is HSBC's $1.9bn (£1.2bn) fine enormous or a drop in the ocean? 
Well, it's a record for the offence of money laundering and breaking sanctions, which could be said to underline the gravity of the bank's actions. On the other hand, the sum represents about four weeks' earnings given the bank's pre-tax profits of $21.9bn last year.
...The New York Times reports that some DoJ officials wanted to bring criminal charges against the bank but eventually decided not to for fear such a move would put the future of one of the world's largest banks at risk and thus threaten global financial stability.  
...the idea that a bank could be "too big to prosecute" is alarming. It sends a message that, whatever the scale of wrong-doing, the world's biggest banks can never lose their licence to operate overnight. Instead, a hefty fine can always make the problem go away. 

Yet another blow to the public trust in both the financial sector and government.


  1. Interesting on HSBC. I hate to pass around rumors but I have heard from more than one source that HSBC Canada is/was the bank of choice for the Quebec Construction Industry and for Quebec Construction magnates/barons or whatever they call themselves on a personal basis.

  2. That revelation would not shock me at all, I am sorry to report.