Attorney general nominee defends British bank investigation

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general is defending her office's handling of a money-laundering investigation involving British bank HSBC, saying the deal carried stern penalties even though no individual executives were prosecuted.

Senate Republicans have delayed a vote on Loretta Lynch's confirmation and said they had more questions, including about a 2012 deal in which HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion to resolve the investigation. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected now to vote next week, though other questions from committee members remain outstanding.

Among the questions posed to Lynch from Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the committee, are 18 focused on the HSBC probe. The Justice Department accused the bank of helping Mexican drug traffickers and other countries under U.S. suspicion or sanction move money around the world, but as part of the deal, no bank executives were criminally charged.

Loretta Lynch is the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the office that brought the case.

In written responses received by committee staff Thursday, Lynch defended the deal, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, and said it had produced consequences that are "perhaps the most stringent ever imposed on a financial institution."

"Our prosecution of HSBC resulted in a number of consequences to the individuals who oversaw HSBC's anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance programs during the relevant time period," Lynch wrote.

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