Will Judge Go Rogue, Reject DOJ Settlement With Big Bank?

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The bank, in turn, argued that a deal is a deal.

HSBC lawyers wrote that the bank has already paid a steep price -- publicly admitting to wrongdoing and suffering "unusual reputational harm" as a result. "The government must be held to its obligations," the filing says.

ABC News left messages for HSBC lawyers and the Justice Department seeking comment but did not receive a response.

Duke law professor Sam Buell said both sides make legitimate points, and added that the Justice Department would be placed in a tough spot if the judge rejects the agreement. But because criminal charges are still pending against HSBC, Buell said, the judge still has the power to reject the deal and force the government to move ahead with a prosecution or propose a different deal.

Gleeson has not signaled which way he will rule. He issued an order in mid-February stating only that "the Court has not yet approved or disapproved the proposed agreement disposing of the case. The application for approval of that agreement has been taken under advisement."

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