FinCEN leaks: HSBC orders social media blackout after suspect funds report

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – HSBC Holdings has told its staff to stop posting on all the bank’s social media accounts over fears of “negative reactions” to the revelations in leaked suspicious activity reports.

In a memo to employees on Monday (Sept 21), Ms Tricia Weener, head of marketing for HSBC’s global commercial and investment banking arms, said the London-based bank would not post until at least 11am British time (6pm Singapore time) on Tuesday.

“Given the current news coverage, a decision has been taken to pause all HSBC proactive social media posts with immediate effect (except for customer responses in banking services) to avoid negative reactions and comments across our channels and content,” wrote Ms Weener.

Shares in HSBC fell 2.7 per cent to HK$28.50 in Hong Kong as at 10.45am local time, after losing 5.3 per cent on Monday to hit their lowest since 1995.

HSBC is one of about 90 banks named in the leaked documents from the United States Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which showed about US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) in transactions between 1999 and 2017 that were flagged by financial institutions’ internal compliance officers as possible money laundering or other criminal activity.

In HSBC’s case, the documents say it processed million of dollars in transactions for a Chinese Ponzi scheme, leaving victims of the scam unable to recoup losses.

“Starting in 2012, HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime across more than 60 jurisdictions. HSBC is a much safer institution than it was in 2012,” the bank said in response to the stories by BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The bank operates dozens of social media accounts across the world, providing information on its services to customers in all the major countries where it operates. HSBC revealed through its official WeChat account in June that its most senior Asia-based executive signed a petition backing a new national security law for Hong Kong, drawing criticism from Western politicians.

A spokesman for HSBC in London declined to comment.

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