Friday, February 3, 2012

Inadvertent Truth

Here is a link to a Reuters story from last week about the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations conducting a probe of alleged money laundering by Banking mega-giant HSBC.

According to the article, the investigation into HSBC, "is the latest in a series of investigations by U.S. officials into how global banks have processed -- and in some cases, intentionally hidden -- financial transactions on behalf of countries which allegedly support terrorism, corrupt foreign officials, drug gangs and criminals." Well, good. Right?

Sort of. Good that someone's looking into it, but here's the rub. Also from the article, "Since 2008, European and U.S. banks have signed deferred prosecution agreements and paid more than $1.2 billion in penalties for alleged violations of anti-money laundering regulations." HMMM. Deferred prosecution agreements? Those are where the prosecutors say, "Bad, bad, bank. Shame! Now, if you don't get in trouble for the same thing in the next year (or other time period), then we won't prosecute anyone." Seems more in keeping with 'dog barking' complaints than with global financial fraud. Think I'm being too hyperbolic? Look at the fines---$1.2 BILLION! BILLION with a B. How much do you suppose these banks have made off laundering mony to fund terrorism, government corruption, drug gangs and criminals? Well, apparently not enough for a single person to go to jail, in spite of over a billion dollars in fines.

So, here's where the truth sort of slips out--because HSBC is SO SORRY, it has hired a new sheriff to run off them 'pesky redskins.' And here's how Reuters characterizes it. "Earlier this month, HSBC named former top U.S. Treasury Department official Stuart Levey as chief legal officer in a sign of how the bank is hiring outside experts in money laundering. " (Italics mine)

They probably meant to say something like, "experts in combatting money laundering." But what they actually said is probably more accurate. Something about foxes and henhouses leaps to mind.

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