Terrorists, drug lords, and pariah regimes looking for a way into the US financial system found British banking giant HSBC willing to assist, according to a damning report from a Senate probe. The report, the result of a year-long inquiry, found that safeguards at the bank's American affiliate were woefully inadequate and the bank ignored warnings about its business partners' links to Saudi terrorist supporters, Iranian groups trying to dodge sanctions, and Mexican drug traffickers, Reuters reports. The report also slammed the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for failing to regulate HSBC properly.
"The culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time," said Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. "Banks that ignore anti-money-laundering rules are a big problem for our country," he said. "But also troubling is a bank regulator that does not adequately do its job." HSBC issued a statement admitting it had "sometimes failed to meet the standards that regulators and customers expect" and saying it had taken "concrete steps" to change its culture. Execs from HSBC and the OCC will be grilled by lawmakers at a Senate hearing today, reports the Washington Post. The BBC adds that HSBC plans to apologize during that appearance. "We will ... acknowledge these mistakes, answer for our actions, and give our absolute commitment to fixing what went wrong," said the company in a statement.