HSBC (HBC) may be about to pay $1.8 billion to settle charges the bank served as a gateway for money laundering.
The settlement by the $2.7 trillion-asset company would resolve an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged lapses by HSBC that resulted in the bank's becoming a conduit for funds tied to narcotics trafficking, terrorism and other illicit activities, Reuters reported Thursday.
The settlement could come as soon as next week and would include the government's agreeing to defer bringing criminal charges against the company, according to the report, which cited unnamed sources.
HSBC did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The settlement would be long in coming. In November, HSBC said in a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission it was carrying on discussions with U.S. authorities regarding money-laundering investigations and that it set aside $800 million in the third quarter, and $1.5 billion overall, in anticipation of a resolution of the probes.
A report in July by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that lapses by HSBC resulted in the bank's processing billions of dollars in transactions involving secret funds from Mexico, Iran, the Cayman Islands, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
The possible settlement with HSBC comes as regulators step-up their reviews of banks' compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws intended to prevent efforts to disguise the true source of funds routed through U.S. financial institutions. In August, Standard Chartered Bank agreed to pay $340 million to New York's top banking regulator to settle charges the bank laundered hundreds of billions of dollars for banks and others in Iran.