Lacewell responds to global money laundering reports, saying banks must be held accountable

In an opinion piece published Tuesday evening on the Law360 website, which requires a subscription to access, Linda Lacewell, New York State Department of Financial Services superintendent, said that banks must be held accountable to stop money laundering.

The piece comes on the heels of a BuzzFeed News report indicating that $2 trillion in suspicious activity reports have been filed by global banks over a period of years, impacting the stock market.

“Individual bankers are rarely held accountable, so money laundering becomes a source of profits and bank fines become a cost of doing business,” Lacewell said in the piece. “When the profits exceed the fines, the business choice is easily corrupted.”

Saying that “getting dirty money out of the system is a critical step toward a more resilient financial system, apart from it being the right thing to do and required by law,” Lacewell said that as a first step, “we must all move to require disclosure of beneficial owners of corporations and limited liability companies in financial transactions.”

Lacewell also said that sanctions should be imposed on bankers who allow corrupt transactions “if the facts and the law don’t warrant prosecution.” She also said that, if global banks won’t devise concrete and effective anti-money laundering programs, regulators should prescribe them, including the use of automated transaction monitoring where needed.

Further, Lacewell said that “boards and senior management of every financial institution must foster and implement a sustainable strong culture of compliance, as it is the foundation of the entire organization” and that compliance “cannot continue to be a back-office function” because it is the first line of defense to prevent the facilitation of crime through the financial system and effectively monitor risky customers.

Lacewell’s opinion piece can be accessed on the DFS website.

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