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Stand with Rep. Waters: The Justice Department must prosecute banking giant HSBC

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Petition to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch:

"Revoke the deferred prosecution agreement with HSBC that allowed the bank to escape criminal prosecution on charges of money laundering and violating U.S. sanctions."

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    Stand with Rep. Waters: The Justice Department must prosecute banking giant HSBC

    Rep. Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Banking Committee, is pulling no punches. She just challenged her own party’s attorney general to get serious about ending “too big to jail.”1

    In 2012, as the U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, now-Attorney General Lynch was responsible for crafting the deferred prosecution agreement allowing the giant British bank HSBC to escape prosecution. HSBC paid a fine amounting to only about five weeks of profit for whitewashing cash for drug cartels and terrorist organizations. The Department of Justice (DOJ) made sure it kept its American banking charter. Not a single executive went to jail.2

    Now, new evidence has emerged that HSBC may have failed to follow the terms of its agreement with the DOJ – so progressive champion Rep. Waters is calling for Attorney General Lynch to revoke HSBC’s get-out-of-jail-free card and immediately prosecute.3 We need to show that we stand right beside her in this fight.

    Stand with Rep. Waters: The Department of Justice must prosecute banking giant HSBC.

    The evidence that has emerged in the past four years shows how outrageous the Justice Department’s failure to prosecute HSBC really was:

    • HSBC still lacks internal controls against money laundering and sanctions violations. An independent investigation just found that HSBC still lacks adequate internal controls to prevent money laundering and evasion of sanctions – nearly four years after promising to put them in place. It’s the second year in a row that the independent monitor has reported that it could not certify HSBC’s systems.4

    • The bank may have continued breaking the law even as it escaped prosecution. HSBC was caught helping wealthy individuals evade taxes, another violation of the law. According to some reports, the government actually knew about this tax criminality when it let HSBC off the hook for money laundering.5

    • Senior DOJ officials apparently overruled a recommendation to prosecute. According to a detailed report produced by the House Financial Services committee Republican staff, the DOJ appeared to move faster than usual in order to settle before the tough-on-banks New York state regulator could act, and allowed HSBC to alter the agreement even after giving the bank a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer. Worst of all, Attorney General Holder and senior DOJ officials overruled staff’s recommendation to prosecute out of fear it would roil financial markets, despite telling Congress there was no such thing as “too big to jail.”6

    Rep. Maxine Waters is stepping out on a limb by criticizing the DOJ at a time when Republicans are doing the same. We need to show that when progressives stand up for what’s right, we will have their back.

    Stand with Rep. Waters: The Department of Justice must prosecute banking giant HSBC.

    In her confirmation hearings, Attorney General Lynch promised that “No individual is too big to jail… nobody is above the law.”7 The DOJ has already taken small steps toward putting that mantra into action, revoking terms with the Swiss financial services firm UBS Group AG after discovering evidence that the bank had committed crimes while under a deferred prosecution agreement much like the one with HSBC.8 Now, she has a chance to correct one of her personal mistakes by tearing up the HSBC deal she helped craft.

    We need to show that Rep. Waters speaks for all Americans offended by our two-tiered system of justice and the continued abuses of big banks. Stand with Rep. Waters and tell the Department of Justice it must prosecute banking giant HSBC.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    1. Zach Carter, “Top Banking Committee Democrat Reprimands Loretta Lynch For Going Easy On Wall Street,” Huffington Post, July 15, 2016.
    2. Matt Taibbi, “Will HSBC Deal Come Back to Haunt Loretta Lynch?," RollingStone.com, February 9, 2015.
    3. Carter, “Top Banking Committee Democrat Reprimands Loretta Lynch For Going Easy On Wall Street.”
    4. Rep. Maxine Waters, “Waters to DOJ: Don’t Let Big Banks Off the Hook,” U.S. House Committee on Financial Services Democrats, July 15, 2016.
    5. Taibbi, “Will HSBC Deal Come Back to Haunt Loretta Lynch?"
    6. Kevin McCoy, “Report: DOJ overruled recommendation to prosecute HSBC,” USA Today, July 11, 2016.
    7. Gina Chon, “Loretta Lynch defends US president’s immigration policy,” Financial Times, January 28, 2015
    8. Waters, “Waters to DOJ: Don’t Let Big Banks Off the Hook.”