Breuer: Standard Chartered Probe Not the Last

Photograph by Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

A Standard Chartered Plc bank branch in Mumbai.

The $327 million settlement reached today between U.S. prosecutors and regulators and British bank Standard Chartered over illegal transactions with sanctioned countries marks the latest in a string of resolutions with major banks — and it won’t be the last.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a telephone interview today that his prosecutors and the other entities involved in the probes are “highly motivated” to pursue future cases in the area. It has been a lucrative endeavor up to this point, with more than $2.5 billion in asset forfeitures from six global banks since the start of 2009.

Breuer, who created the money laundering and bank integrity unit within his division in 2010 to pursue cases like the Standard Chartered settlement, said that “by any measure the unit has gone gangbusters.”

He also said the investigations, which are done jointly with the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, U.S. attorneys’ offices and state law enforcement officials, have had a noticeable effect on executives he has met with at major banks.

“They understand what a priority this is for the administration and for this Department of Justice,” Breuer said.

While Breuer wouldn’t comment on the timeline for the looming settlement with HSBC Holdings Plc — something that is expected as soon as this week — he said the law enforcement and regulatory probes of illegal transactions will continue to be a focal point going forward.

“Our plan is to get lots done and to get lots done sooner rather than later,” Breuer said.

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