A federal judge ruled Thursday that the public has a right to see a secret report on HSBC Holdings PLC’s fight to keep out dirty money, a decision that could upend the way companies privately hash out deals with the government.
The ruling concerns the report of a so-called outside monitor that was appointed to police HSBC as a condition of the company’s $1.9 billion settlement with the U.S. government in 2012, in which it admitted to failing to catch money laundering and violating sanctions. As has been the case in other similar cases, the HSBC monitor’s reports have so far been kept private.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson wrote in the ruling that “the public has a First Amendment right to see” the monitor’s report, though he said the company and the Justice Department can suggest redactions and that some portions can remain under seal. HSBC, the Justice Department and the monitor, former prosecutor Michael Cherkasky, had all fought attempts to make the report public.