Five questions answered on HSBC’s money laundering provisions

Mexican drug money has passed through the bank.

HSBC has announced it has put more money aside to deal with US money laundering fines. We answer five questions on HSBC’s money laundering provisions.

How much more money has HSBC put aside?

A further 4800 million (£500 million) to cover potential money laundering fines imposed by the US. It had previously put aside $700 million.

Why does HSBC have to pay money laundering fines?

Because a report by the US Senate said that Mexican drug money had almost certainly passed through HSBC.

How much could these future fines cost HSBC?

HSBC is currently in discussion with US authorities in regards to a final settlement in fines. However, it did tell the BBC the "final amount of the financial penalties could be higher, possibly significantly higher [than the $1.5bn already set aside]".

The bank may also face corporate criminal charges, as well as civil penalties. In a statement released with its third quarter results the bank said:

"While the prosecution of corporate criminal charges in these types of cases has most often been deferred through an agreement with the relevant authorities, the US authorities have substantial discretion, and prior settlements can provide no assurance as to how the US authorities will proceed in these matters."

What about HSBC’s other finances?

Pre-tax profits for HSBC were announced by the bank as $3.5bn from July to September, down $3.7bn from a year earlier. However, underlying profits for the quarter totaled $5bn, more than double the figure recorded for the same quarter a year ago.

Is HSBC, like other banks in the UK, also embroiled in the PPI mis-selling scandal?

Yes. This is also costing the bank significant sums of money. It has set aside a further £223m in the UK to pay for PPI compensation claims, taking its total provisions to £1.3bn and the total for the UK banking industry as a whole to almost £13bn.

HSBC has put money aside to deal with laundering fines. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.