HSBC Adds Former Justice Official for Anti-Laundering Push

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HSBC (HBC) is taking added steps to strengthen its safeguards against financial criminals.

The $2.7 trillion-asset company said Wednesday it has named James Comey, a former U.S. deputy attorney general, to its board and formed a new board committee to oversee compliance with laws that aim to deter money laundering and other crimes.

The steps follow an agreement in December by HSBC to pay a record $1.9 billion to settle charges by U.S. authorities that the company failed to prevent lapses that led drug traffickers and others to use the accounts at HSBC as receptacles for illicit funds.

Comey, who will have no ties to HSBC's management, served as a top official at the Justice Department in the administration of George W. Bush over a three-year period starting in 2002. He later held top legal posts at Lockheed Martin and Bridgewater Associates.

At HSBC, Comey will be one of three directors who serve on the company's Financial Systems Vulnerabilities Committee, which will supervise management's implementation of anti-laundering controls and advise the board on compliance risks.

Rona Fairhead, a director who heads HSBC's risk committee, and Sir Simon Robertson, an independent director, will serve with Comey on the committee, which also will have five advisors: Bill Hughes, a former U.K. law enforcement official; Juan Zarate, a former counter-terrorism official in the George W. Bush administration; Nick Fishwick, a former counter-terrorism official in Great Britain; and Leonard Schrank, a former chief executive of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

"The new committee, which will benefit from the experience of the expert advisors, will provide invaluable guidance and advice as we strengthen our capabilities and enforce the highest standards, in particular in relation to combating financial crime," Stuart Gulliver, HSBC's chief executive, said in a press release.

In December, HSBC named Robert Werner, a former head of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, to be its top officer for money-laundering reporting.

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