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Stung by Big Fines, Big Banks Beef Up Money-Laundering Controls

  • HSBC added 4,000 employees to monitor suspicious activities
  • ‘Despite all the money we’re spending, it’s still getting in’
HSBC Headquarters At Canary Wharf Ahead Of Move Announcement

Photographer: Luke Macgregor/Bloomberg

When U.S. authorities shut the sex-ad site last year, financial-crime monitors at an HSBC Holdings Plc office in New York sprang into action.

They started looking at hundreds of thousands of HSBC accounts in the U.S., searching for patterns of activity that might suggest involvement with sex trafficking, according to bank executives interviewed in March. The list was narrowed to several hundred names, then to a few dozen. Months later, after reviewing customer transactions for things like condom purchases and hotel reservations, HSBC closed the accounts of a handful of people and turned over their findings to police.