Money laundering has jumped back to the top of the corporate crime charts, thanks to Steve Bannon’s statements about Trump’s associates as well as the revelation by the founders of Fusion GPS that they gave Congressional investigators leads about the president’s questionable business transactions.
Amid all this, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reminded us of the wider scope of corporate ties to money laundering by announcing that it was fining Citibank $70 million for failing to comply with a 2012 consent order the bank signed with the agency to resolve allegations of violating the Bank Secrecy Act. Western Union is paying a $60 million penalty in a similar case brought by New York regulators.
According to data compiled for Violation Tracker, the Justice Department and federal financial regulators have since 2000 brought more than 80 successful cases against corporations for deficiencies in their anti-money laundering practices. These companies have paid a total of $5.9 billion in fines and settlements.
The targets of these cases include several of the largest U.S. banks. JPMorgan Chase paid the largest penalty, $1.7 billion, to resolve a criminal case connected to its role as the banker for Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, was fined $110 million in 2010. Citigroup subsidiary Banamex agreed last year to forfeit $97 million to resolve a criminal case involving remittances to Mexico.
Foreign banks have also been involved. In 2012 HSBC had to pay $1.3 billion to resolve charges relating to anti-money laundering deficiencies as well as violations of economic sanctions. Last year Deutsche Bank – the same institution whose name keeps getting mentioned in connection with the Trump investigation – was penalized $41 million by the Federal Reserve and was fined $425 million by New York State regulators for anti-money laundering deficiencies said to be connected to the illicit transfer of more than $10 billion out of Russia.
Federal prosecutors and regulators have also brought cases against non-bank entities that handle lots of cash, including Western Union, American Express and casinos. In 2015 the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino was fined $75 million, and in 2013 the Las Vegas Sands Corp. paid $47 million to resolve criminal charges.
Also in 2015 the Treasury Department imposed a $10 million penalty on the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, which by that time was no longer controlled by Donald Trump. Yet the justification for that penalty mentioned that the casino had been found in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act many times in earlier years, including 1998, when, with Trump running the show, it was fined $477,000 by Treasury.
All of which is to say that neither Donald Trump, his current and former business interests, nor many of the largest financial institutions are strangers to issues of anti-money laundering deficiencies. For the most part, these cases involve a failure to detect and report suspicious transactions on the part of clients and customers. The big question for the Trump empire is whether it will faces charges of having engaged in such transactions on its own.