US prosecutors deem HSBC too big to indict

American state and federal authorities have decided not to pursue a criminal indictment against global bank HSBC over concerns that doing so would destabalise the global economy, according to a report published last week in The New York Times. 

The bank recently agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion settlement over charges it laundered money for Mexican drug cartels and transferred billions of dollars to Iran (under financial embargo for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons).

American presecutors debated for months behind the scenes about whether or not to indict the bank, eventually leaving such criminal persecution because it could jeopardise the ability of the bank to access some funds, which could in turn spell its collapse. 

In 2008, the collapse of global investment bank Bear Stearns is widely regarded as having been the event that sparked the global financial crisis. 

American consumer advocacy group Public Action told NPR that if HSBC is too big to indict, it shouldn’t exist.

Hal Scott, a Harvard law professor, told the radio station it would still be possible to indict the individuals responsible for the money laundering, however, this would be more legally difficult. He notes that the nearly $2 billion settlement, perversely, is being paid by the bank’s shareholders, and not the people who actually broke the law. 

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