News Summary: HSBC settlement is questioned

AP News
Posted: Dec 18, 2012 3:07 PM

TOO BIG TO JAIL? When the Justice Department said last week that British bank HSBC would pay a record $1.9 billion to settle allegations that it laundered money for Iran, Libya and Mexican drug cartels, prosecutors hailed it as a victory. Critics say the government should have gone further and pressed criminal charges. "Shame on the Department of Justice," said Jimmy Gurulé, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at the University of Notre Dame.

'COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES': Prosecutors say they didn't have enough to prove in court that HSBC executives conspired with criminal intent to aid drug organizations or rogue nations. They also expressed fear of "collateral consequences" — that going further could have sunk a company that employs tens of thousands of people.

THE ARTHUR ANDERSEN EXAMPLE: In 2002, the huge accounting firm Arthur Andersen was convicted of destroying Enron-related documents before the energy giant imploded. Clients abandoned Andersen after the firm was forced to surrender its accounting license, leaving 85,000 out of work after the company collapsed. The Supreme Court ultimately overturned the conviction, but it was too late to save the company.