HSBC to Pay $352 Million to Resolve French Probe -- Update

By Brian Blackstone Features Dow Jones Newswires

HSBC Holdings PLC said Tuesday that its Swiss private-banking unit will pay EUR300 million ($352 million) to resolve charges that it helped clients evade taxes in France.

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"HSBC is pleased to resolve this legacy investigation which relates to conduct that took place many years ago," the bank said in a statement. "HSBC has publicly acknowledged historical control weaknesses at the Swiss Private Bank on a number of occasions and has taken firm steps to address them."

French prosecutors began investigating HSBC in 2014 as part of a widening probe into whether the bank breached laws authorizing only French-registered lenders to sign up customers in the country. The investigation also examined whether the bank was complicit in laundering the proceeds of any tax evasion.

According to a statement from the French prosecutors office Tuesday, more than EUR1.6 billion worth of client assets were shielded from French taxes. French authorities said they discovered the assets after seizing computer documents found at the French home of a former HSBC employee in 2009.

HSBC said that under the agreement announced Tuesday, there is no finding of guilt on the part of the Swiss Private Bank. It has provisioned fully for the amount.

The settlement was the first in France under a new law passed last year modeled on U.S. deferred prosecution agreements.

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Write to Brian Blackstone at brian.blackstone@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 14, 2017 11:45 ET (16:45 GMT)