Warren and Sanders call for banking reforms

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Lawmakers, regulators and activists around the world called on Monday for swift action on the findings of a new investigation by BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into corruption in the global banking system and how governments facilitate it.

In the FinCEN Files, a series of stories that began publishing on Sunday, BuzzFeed News and partners revealed how Western banking giants are shifting billions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the actions of terrorists, kleptocrats and kingpins.

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday called for reforming the government’s practice of offering banks with deferred prosecution agreements instead of real sanctions when they are taken in the process of promoting money laundering, one of the issues highlighted. evident in the series.

“We must eradicate this corruption by strengthening the transparency of financial networks and cracking down on black money flowing in the global financial system,” she said.

The Massachusetts Democrat called for the creation of a new unit within the US Treasury Department, separate from FinCEN, “to investigate these types of financial crimes.”

She also called for the passage of her so-called “Ending Too Big to Jail Act,” a law she introduced in 2018 that she said would hold Wall Street executives criminally accountable when banks that they lead would be breaking the law. That, she said, would stop the practice of allowing “bankers to walk away with settlements and slaps on the wrist.”

Senator Bernie Sanders also described the series as revealing “common business practices on Wall Street”.

“Wall Street’s business model is fraud. This is not the exception to the rule, it is the rule, ”he said on Twitter. “Break them down.”

The banking lobby, however, disputed the findings of the investigation.

“It does not make sense that the basis of media claims that banks knowingly concealed illegal activity consisted only of reports of suspicious activity that these banks filed to alert law enforcement to the same. activity, ”said Bank Policy Institute President Greg Baer. “Obviously, there is more to this story, but unfortunately the report failed to find out, and banks are legally prohibited from speaking their point of view. ”

The FinCEN file series is based in part on a multitude of government documents, called “suspicious activity reports”, which are compiled by banks and sent to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The agency is charged with fighting money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes, but BuzzFeed News has found that criminals are using banks to finance terrorism and death, and the government is not. don’t stop.

The FinCEN File Story Series – which is the product of a collaboration between BuzzFeed News, ICIJ and over 100 partner news agencies – continues to resonate around the world.

As of Monday evening, the stock prices of several banks highlighted in the series, including Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and JPMorgan Chase, had fallen. HSBC stock fell to its lowest level in 25 years. An article published on Monday about that bank also revealed how it continued to facilitate and profit from transactions it suspected to be dirty, including money that the Treasury Department later said was linked to. narco pivots. HSBC officials have argued the bank has met its obligations under the law.

Regulators around the world have joined with Warren and Sanders in calling for more stringent investigations and reforms.

In the UK, Pat McFadden, the shadow economic secretary of Labor at the Treasury, said that “London’s reputation and strength as a global financial center is weakened and undermined if you think it is. a place where illicit funds can be laundered. It is absolutely vital that the government and regulators thoroughly investigate what happened. ”

In Brussels, Sven Giegold, the spokesman for economic and financial policy of the Greens / European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, called the series a “wake-up call”.

“It is scandalous that the big international banks continue to allow large-scale money laundering even after the global financial crisis,” he said. “It is a large-scale state bankruptcy that governments have for years been unable to stop this growing financial crime.”

Giegold has said he wants a hearing on the series’ findings in the European Parliament’s new tax subcommittee.

The superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services has also called for reforms. “We need to act,” Linda Lacewell said on Twitter. “Billions of dollars of dirty money are pouring into the financial system in a toxic stew of criminal proceeds. Banks need to put integrity at the center of their business and empower compliance officers. ”

Other news outlets with which BuzzFeed News shared the documents published their own inquiries, including one that revealed North Korea’s efforts to infiltrate the global financial system and avoid sanctions; another story examined how the Treasury Department dropped a major money laundering case in the illicit gold trade.

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