"If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, chances are good you're going to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life," Warren said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.
"But evidently, if you launder nearly $1 billion for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed," Warren said.
The comment was made in reference to HSBC, which paid $1.92 billion in fines for money laundering on behalf of drug cartels and terrorists organizations, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The bank admitted it had shuffled money around for illegal organizations but nobody went to jail.
The bank "did it over and over and over again across a period of years. And they were caught doing it, warned not to do it and kept right on doing it and evidently making a profit doing it," Warren said.
"How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?" she asked.
Her comments came a few days after Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said bank regulators "are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy."