Senator reports stock sale before HSBC settlement

Days before news broke this week that HSBC Holdings agreed to pay nearly $2 billion in fines to settle a federal money-laundering probe, a veteran Democratic senator disclosed selling off at least a quarter-million dollars worth of the company’s stock, records show.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, reported the Dec. 3 sale of between $250,001 and $500,000 in HSBC stock on forms he filed with the Senate on Dec. 8.

Three days later, HSBC announced it agreed to the record settlement. Reuters first reported the settlement last week.

At a news conference Tuesday, Justice Department officials accused the bank of “stunning failures of oversight” that led the bank to allow Mexican drug traffickers to launder hundreds of millions of dollars.

A spokesman for Mr. Bingaman said the lawmaker didn’t have any inside information.

“He did not know about the settlement,” Bingaman spokesman Jude McCartin wrote in an email asking about the lawmaker’s stock sale.

The Dec. 3 transaction was reported to the Senate five days later. Based on the forms, the stock appeared to be held by the lawmaker’s wife.

The sale became public thanks to beefed up public disclosure rules included in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK), which was enacted earlier this year.

The law was passed less than a year after CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a story raising questions about whether members of Congress and their staff aides were using inside information to trade on company stocks.

Under the new law, that sort of activity is banned. Members of Congress also must file periodic financial transaction reports that detail trading in stocks, bonds and other securities over $1,000. The requirement also extends to transactions owned by lawmakers’ spouses and dependent children.

The HSBC stock sale reported by Mr. Bingaman was disclosed on such a periodic transaction filing.

Mr. Bingaman is retiring after announcing he wouldn’t seek re-election last year. He’s chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee.

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