Press Release / March 4, 2013

Outrage at vast HSBC profits and bonuses despite role in drug money laundering

The British bank, HSBC, made a $20.6bn profit in 2012 and paid its CEO a $3m bonus, it was announced today. This is in spite of the fact that HSBC was fined a record $1.9bn for doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist financers and pariah states.

Stuart McWilliam, of Global Witness said: “It is outrageous that despite the size of the fine HSBC received for money laundering, they still managed to increase underlying profits and hand their executives multi-million pound bonuses. There are insufficient incentives for banks to stop taking illegal money.  Fines by themselves don’t work as they hurt the wrong people.  Individual bankers and executives need to pay personally for transgressions: either by having their bonuses cut, being barred from working in the industry or going to prison for breaking the law. 

“Forty seven thousand people died at the hands of drug traffickers while HSBC was taking their money.  Until the punishment fits the crime, banks will continue to accept dirty money, which fuels corruption, crime and wide scale human suffering around the world.

“Given the massive death toll from drug related violence in Mexico, and the clear link between HSBC and the laundering of drug money, how is it that there are no personal consequences for the HSBC personnel involved?  It is difficult not to contemplate whether more action might have been undertaken had these events taken place either in Europe or the United States.  Someone in authority needs to explain why more action has not been taken.”

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For further information and interviews contact:
Rosie Sharpe, Global Witness  + 44 (0)7850 733681
Stefanie Ostfeld, Global Witness  +1 202 621 6674

Links to past releases

Notes to the editor
1. A one-off accounting effect caused HBSC’s headline profits to fall by 6%, but underlying profits actually rose by 18%.