FCPA: The HSBC AML Settlement – Lessons Learned for the AML Compliance Practitioner

I recently wrote about banks behaving badly. Currently, Exhibit A in that list is HSBC. In December, 2012, the UK banking giant HSBC agreed to pay a fine of $1.92 billion for its transgressions involving money laundering. Today I want to look at the violations which the company engaged in and its resolution.

I. HSBC AML Violations

Regarding the HSBC AML claims there were four major areas of money laundering violations by HSBC. As listed in the Statement Facts to the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) they read:

10. There were at least four significant failures in HSBC Bank USA’s AML program that allowed the laundering of drug trafficking proceeds through HSBC Bank USA:

Failure to obtain or maintain due diligence or KYC information on HSBC Group Affiliates, including HSBC Mexico; Failure to adequately monitor over $200 trillion in wire transfers between 2006 and 2009 from customers located in countries that HSBC Bank USA classified as “standard” or “medium” risk, including over $670 billion in wire transfers from HSBC Mexico; Failure to adequately monitor billions of dollars in purchases of physical U.S. dollars (“banknotes”) between July 2006 and July 2009 from HSBC Group Affiliates, including over $9.4 billion from HSBC Mexico; and Failure to provide adequate staffing and other resources to maintain an effective AML program.

We will review each of these in more depth to provide guidance to the AML compliance practitioner on the steps that their financial institution needs to take.

a. HSBC Bank USA Failed to Conduct Due Diligence on HSBC Group Affiliates

One of HSBC Bank USA’s high risk products was its correspondent banking practices and services. Correspondent accounts were established at banks to receive deposits from, make payments on behalf of, or handle other financial transactions for foreign financial institutions ...

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