The fallout from the HSBC money laundering scandal continues to reverberate around the globe, but U.S. Congress members apparently are in no hurry to return millions of dollars they have received from the scandal-plagued bank.
WND, which originally broke the story on the HSBC debacle, conducted an analysis of Federal Election Commission records specific to the company political action committee’s generosity toward Congress. The investigation centered upon two congressional panels with primary oversight of the industry: The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs, and the House Committee on Financial Services.
Since 1997, the earliest available FEC electronic records, HSBC bestowed its greatest beneficence upon the House panel’s leadership.
The bank’s direct contributions to individual leaders amounted to hundreds of thousands; however, HSBC’s financial support of the American Bankers Association PAC, or BANKPAC – plus many dozens of other financial, insurance, and law firm PACs for which HSBC provides funding – in turn donated millions of dollars to a handful of key members.
WND offered two basic questions for committee leadership to answer:
- In light of the U.S. Senate’s allegations that HSBC laundered billions, for example, from murderous Mexican drug cartels and rogue nations such as Iran, do you intend to return any of the funds received from HSBC?
- Will you accept or reject future offers from the HSBC North America PAC?
In the few instances where leaders obtained zero or minimal HSBC funds, WND inquired whether the member had rejected or simply never had been offered donations.
The spokesperson of only one congressional leader – who declined to be identified – returned an e-mail to WND. In that instance, the congressman, who received a small amount from HSBC several years ago, said he would rather not comment on the situation.
As of this deadline, WND questions otherwise continue to be met with a wall of silence.
HSBC’s biggest financial beneficiary on the committees is Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., who since 1997 raked in $45,500 directly from the HSBC PAC. It most recently cut a $1,000 check for the Bachus for Congress Committee in November.
HSBC in May likewise donated $2,500 to the Financial Services Roundtable, a PAC that has given Bachus $33,499 from 1997 onward, including a $5,000 check in February.
Subcommittee Vice Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, has reaped $34,500 from HSBC since 2002, last receiving $1,000 in September 2011. BANKPAC, however, donated $52,000 to his campaign in that same period.
Ranking Minority Member Barney Frank, D-Mass., directly received $21,000 since 2002 from HSBC, which in turn gave $42,500 to BANKPAC – which in turn donated a total of $48,250 back to Frank.
The following is a run-down solely of direct HSBC PAC donations to the respective House Committee on Financial Services subcommittee leaders:
Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee
Chairman Judy Biggert, R-Ill.: $39,499 since 1998
Vice Chairman Robert Hurt, R-Va.: Single $1,000 payment on May 18, 2011
Ranking Minority Member Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill.: $3,500 since 1998
Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee
Chairman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.: $10,000 from 2000-2004
Vice Chairman James B. Renacci, R-Ohio: $0
Ranking Minority Member Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y.: $12,000 since 1997
Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Subcommittee
Chairman Ron Paul, R-Texas: Single $500 payment in 1998
Vice Chairman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C.: $11,400 since 1999
Ranking Minority Member Wm. Lacy Clay, D-Mo.: $10,500 since 1999
Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee
Chairman Scott Garrett, R-N.J.: $24,500 since 2002
Vice Chairman David Schweikert, R-Ariz.: $0
Ranking Minority Member Maxine Waters, D-Calif.: $0
U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs leaders received significantly less than their House counterparts from HSBC. Chairman Tim Johnson, D-S.D., got $20,000 from the PAC since 1997.
While HSBC only gave $13,029 to Ranking Minority Member Richard Shelby since 1998, Shelby – who also serves as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee – separately received millions during that period from a multitude of PACs in every imaginable industry sector.
The following is a run-down solely of direct HSBC PAC donations to the respective Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs subcommittee leaders:
Economic Policy Subcommittee
Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont.: $1,000 in 2009
Ranking Minority Member David Vitter, R-La.: $3,000 since 2009
Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee
Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J.: $9,000 since 2006
Ranking Minority Member Jim DeMint, R-S.C.: $1,000 in 2008
Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee
Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: $0
Ranking Minority Member Bob Corker, R-Tenn.: $4,000 in 2008
Security and International Trade and Finance Subcommittee
Chairman Mark R. Warner, D-Va.: $8,500 since 1999
Ranking Minority Member Mike Johanns, R-Neb.: $0
Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee
Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I.: $3,000 since 2010
Mike Crapo, R-Idaho: $16,000 since 2003
A spokesperson for the Center for Responsive Politics expressed concern about such linkages between industries such as the banking sector and members of Congress with jurisdiction over them.
Viveca Novak, CRP editorial and communications director, cautioned, however, against making a direct connection between contributions received and the perception of congressional favors granted.
“It creates at least the appearance of a conflict of interest when lawmakers running for re-election rely on contributions from the very companies they are supposed to be overseeing,” she said.
“Is this why Congress has such difficulty passing legislation that addresses some of the questionable practices of banks and others? There’s not a straight line between cause and effect, but there are grounds for raising questions about a link.”
Alluding to WND’s questioning of House and Senate committee members about what their plans are for the campaign contributions, Novak said CRP is not taking a position “on what should be done with the donations already given.”
WND recently reported the Internal Revenue Service is acknowledging receipt of a whistleblower claim from a former employee of the bank who presented 1,000 pages of evidence to WND six months ago, after local and federal authorities ignored him.
A series of WND stories, beginning in February, reported the evidence collected by John Cruz, a former vice president and relationship manager for HSBC in New York who documented hundreds of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions he pulled from a bank computer system before he was fired. Cruz was terminated in 2010, after two years at HSBC, for “poor performance,” but he contends he was let go because senior management didn’t want to him to pursue his personal investigation.
In a letter to Cruz, the supervisor of the IRS whistleblower office in Ogden, Utah, acknowledged the agency is evaluating Cruz’s claim to determine whether an investigation is warranted. Cruz previously told WND he met with special agents with the IRS criminal division in April and handed over a computer disc with copies of his internal documents.
The agents, according to Cruz, were overwhelmed with the volume and detail of the information, calling it “mind-boggling.”
Meanwhile, a recent Senate report presents evidence HSBC abetted massive money laundering by Iran, terrorist organizations, drug cartels and organized criminals throughout the world. The report said HSBC transferred $19 billion for Iran and $7 billion in physical cash for Mexico.
WND’s series of articles on HSBC has caused fallout for WND senior reporter Jerome Corsi and for WND, which saw one of the articles temporarily blocked when HSBC filed a complaint with an Internet provider that turned out to be unwarranted.
One of the largest banks in the world, London-based HSBC has about 7,500 offices in more than 80 countries and territories in Europe, North and South America, the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa.
As WND reported, law enforcement authorities sat on the HSBC money-laundering allegations, even denying they were handed the same information by a whistleblower, until the story was exposed by WND.