HSBC in new US money-laundering inquiry

HSBC is again facing trouble as a result of the increasing clampdown on money laundering in the US.

The bank, which has been progressively reducing its US exposure, is the subject of an investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. It is conducting a money-laundering inquiry.

The subcommittee, which has a history of bringing high-profile global banks to book, could hold a hearing and report this spring.

US officials have run a series of investigations into how big banks have processed transactions involving countries which the US government claims support terrorism as well as those which could involve criminals or potentially corrupt foreign officials. It is not known exactly what the focus of the subcommittee's inquiries into HSBC is.

The bank yesterday admitted it was holding "ongoing discussions" with US officials over "a number of regulatory and compliance matters". In a sign it is taking the increasing hard line of US watchdogs seriously it recently named former top US Treasury Department official Stuart Levey (pictured) as its London-based chief legal officer.

The bank has a history of run-ins with American authorities over its anti-money laundering systems and has twice been ordered to improve. It said it was working with regulators to resolve problems and had been hiring staff and consultants and improving training and monitoring. HSBC said it supported "US efforts to strengthen anti-money-laundering defences".

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