Even if that amount exceeds HSBC’s rake from illegal drug-peddling activities, the bank isn’t troubled in the least, since it can easily cover the fine with the $3.5 billion backdoor bailout it received as an AIG counterparty.
HSBC said in its 2011 annual report that fines relating to money laundering issues could be “significant”. There has been speculation among analysts that the bank could be hit with a higher charge than the $619m ING, the Dutch bank, agreed to pay to settle accusations it violated US sanctions by helping Iranian and Cuban companies move billions of dollars through the US financial system. Some have suggested it could be as much as $1bn.
Mr Gulliver warned that HSBC was likely to face further action from other US authorities in coming months.