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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DOJ Obtains $100 Million Money Laundering Settlement from Money Services Business

Anti-Money Laundering Bank Secrecy Act DOJ Money Service / Money Transmitters

Consumer Finance

On November 9, the DOJ announced that a money services business (MSB) agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and pay $100 million for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and for aiding and abetting wire fraud. The DOJ alleged that over a roughly five year period (2004-2009) the MSB profited on thousands of transactions processed on behalf of agents known to be involved in an international fraud scheme. The MSB’s senior management deferred to sales department executives and ignored recommendations from the MSB’s fraud department that certain agents known to be engaged in fraud be terminated, according to the DOJ. Moreover, the DOJ states that the MSB systematically and willfully failed to meet AML obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act, including by failing to (i) implement policies or procedures to file the required Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) when victims reported fraud on transactions over $2,000, (ii) file SARs on agents known to be involved in the fraud, (iii) conduct effective AML audits of its agents and outlets, (iv) conduct adequate due diligence on prospective and existing agents by verifying that a legitimate business existed, and (v) sufficiently resource and staff its AML program.

Pursuant to the DPA, the MSB must (i) create an independent compliance and ethics committee of the board of directors with direct oversight of the chief compliance officer and the compliance program, (ii) adopt a global anti-fraud and anti-money laundering standard to ensure that their agents throughout the world will, at a minimum, be required to adhere to U.S. anti-fraud and anti-money laundering standards, (iii) adopt a bonus system that rates all executives on success in meeting compliance obligations, with failure making the executive ineligible for any bonus for that year, and (iv) adopt enhanced due diligence for agents deemed to be high risk or operating in a high-risk area. The MSB also agreed to retain an independent monitor that will oversee implementation and maintenance of these enhanced compliance obligations, evaluate the overall effectiveness of its anti-fraud and anti-money laundering programs, and report regularly to the DOJ.