HSBC Holdings Plc will pay about 300 million
euros ($352 million) to settle a criminal investigation by the French government into allegations it helped clients evade taxes, the second-biggest corporate charge levied by an authority in the nation.
The bank acknowledged past weaknesses in controls at the Swiss private bank unit and said it had enhanced its anti-money laundering and tax compliance procedures, according to an emailed statement. HSBC, Europe’s largest lender, was under criminal investigation regarding the private bank’s conduct in 2006 and 2007. The agreement uses new rules in France that allow for a financial settlement to satisfy criminal claims.
The investigation found that HSBC helped its clients hide the assets they held in the firm’s Swiss private bank from local French tax authorities, the bank said. The agreement includes a penalty of about 158 million euros and damages and interest of about 142 million euros, a judge at a court hearing in Paris said.