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(MoneyWatch) The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday trumpeted its $1.9 billion penalty on HSBC to resolve money-laundering charges against the British financial giant as a “heavy price” to pay for the company’s misconduct. Yet the government’s decision to forgo pursuing criminal or other legal action against the bank under a so-called “deferred prosecution agreement” raises questions about whether such deals constitute real punishment for large corporations and serve to deter similar white-collar crime.

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