HSBC Holdings Plc has agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle a multi-year US criminal probe into money-laundering lapses at the British lender, the largest penalty ever paid by a bank.
HSBC admitted to a breakdown of controls and apologised in a statement on Tuesday, announcing it had reached a deferred-prosecution deal with the US Department of Justice.
"We accept responsibility for our past mistakes," said Stuart Gulliver, chief executive, HSBC. "We have said we are profoundly sorry for them and we do so again. The HSBC of today is a fundamentally different organisation from the one that made those mistakes."
"Over the last two years under new senior leadership we have been taking concrete steps to put right what went wrong and to participate actively with government authorities in bringing to light and addressing these matters," he added.
An US Senate panel had alleged that HSBC failed to maintain controls designed to prevent money laundering by drug cartels, terrorists, when acting as a financier to clients routing funds from places including Mexico, Iran and Syria.
The bank was unable to properly monitor $15 billion in bulk cash transactions between mid-2006 and mid-2009, the panel said.
US and European banks have now agreed to settlements with US regulators totalling some $5 billion in recent years on charges they violated US sanctions and failed to police illicit transactions.