For Immediate Release

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A Travesty of Justice: HSBC Being Released From Deferred Prosecution Agreement

WASHINGTON - Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: HSBC Holdings PLC is to be released from a deferred prosecution agreement that allowed the company to avoid criminal charges in 2012.

The “sword of Damocles” that the U.S. Justice Department said hung over HSBC turned out to be made of foam.

The Justice Department’s failure to criminally prosecute HSBC over an extensive money laundering scandal involving Latin American cartels and countries against which the U.S. maintained sanctions is one of the most shameful transgressions of our nation’s commitment to equal justice under law. A megabank was able to evade pleading guilty to a raft of criminal violations – kind consideration for lawbreakers that almost certainly would not have been afforded to a small bank, let alone a street dealer.

Now, according to HSBC, the Trump Justice Department (DOJ) is doubling down on this manifest injustice, releasing HSBC from its deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). Over the course of the deferred prosecution deal, HSBC has been: caught up in a foreign exchange fraud case; subject to a compliance report reportedly indicating the bank resisted reforms at least in the first year of the DPA; alleged to have engaged in recent or ongoing money-laundering abuses. This is hardly the profile of a “reformed” business.

The DPA and now termination of the DPA are perks of corporate giantism. It is inconceivable that a street criminal would receive this kind of gentle treatment. The Justice Department’s let-them-off-easy approach not only is a moral outrage, it is an invitation for Wall Street and megacorporations to thumb their noses at the law. Why not, when the consequences of being caught for systematic, large-scale, profitable and consequential violations are so trivial?

At a bare minimum, if the DOJ is going to proceed with this travesty of justice, it should make public the corporate monitor reports that purportedly justify ending the DPA.


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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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