HSBC Fined, Pays $850,000 for Industrial Contamination

On May 30, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced a settlement in which HSBC will pay $850,000 in civil penalties and reimburse the state of New York about $68,000 for costs associated with the cleanup of a contaminated industrial site in eastern New York.

It is one of the nation’s first Superfund cases against a bank, Cuomo said. The violation involves hundreds of drums, tanks and containers that were abandoned at the Westwood Chemical Co. in Walkill in Orange County.

The attorney general’s lawsuit alleged that after HSBC seized the company’s operating funds in 2004, Westwood was forced to close its doors and leave behind many containers of chemicals and products that posed a substantial risk of fire and explosion.

The suit also alleged that HSBC knew of the abandoned chemicals and associated risks, but did not notify the state Department of Environmental Conservation or any state or local emergency responders as required by law.

The Delaware bank has been fined $250,000 by the National Association of Securities Dealers, a penalty that was levied one day before the company was hit much harder by New York state.