Search Results for: "money laundering"

Yet another banking fiasco. This time Goldman Sachs

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There is a long list of banking scandals in the last decade or so with a long list of banks choosing to play in each of the fiascos.  Plenty of banks have joined multiple schemes.

The time I’ve allocated to watching the apparently unending disasters has been concentrated on the money laundering and interest rate / exchange rate / pricing manipulation messes, along with the unending variations of cheat-your-customer plans at Wells Fargo.

Until now I’ve not been focused on the bribery disaster involving 1MDB’s shenanigans in Malaysia. If you’ve not tuned in, you can categorize this mess in the international corruption and bribery sector of bank fiascos.

Goldman Sachs was apparently full-in with the bribes and corruption. Wall Street Journal on 10/22/20 summarizes the mess:  Goldman Pays Billions – And Takes Millions From Top Execs – To End 1MDB Scandal.

On 10/23/20 Goldman settled up with the U.S. and several other national governments. The bank agreed to clawback $174M from several executives.

They also admitted breaking U.S. corruption laws, specifically with a plea of guilty to charges of conspiring to violate antibribery laws. To keep the parent company in business it was actually a subsidiary of Goldman who entered a guilty plea. Only two executives have been hit with criminal charges.

The feds say billions were stolen from 1MDB and bribes aggregating $1.6B were paid to various government officials around the world.

Financial penalties paid by Goldman:

  • $2.9B – US Department of Justice and other regulators around the world
  • $2.5B – government of Malaysia
  • $0.154B – Federal Reserve Bank
  • $5.545B – total of above

From browsing headlines it looks like there are a few other fines but those are in the mere $50M or so range. Chump change for the big banks.

So, five and a half billion dollars of stockholder money burned by bribery and corruption. The irritated populists will loudly remind us that only two executives, merely two, have drawn criminal charges in the U.S.

Getting caught up on the cost of big bank fiascos – part 2

Interior of Concord stage coach, Three people sat on each of the two benches round the clock, for many days, getting out to stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat only during a swap of horses. Photo at Wells Fargo’s San Diego museum by James Ulvog.

Previous post mentioned I’ve fallen far behind on covering the fines and penalties on the big banks for their massive fiascos.

Here is a list of some messes happening since I was last discussing their messes:

11/19/18 – Reuters – Société Generale to pay $1.4 billion to settle cases in the US – French bank agreed to $1.34B fine for laundering money to Cuba and other countries on the prohibited list. Paid an additional $95M other anti-money laundering violations.

Getting caught up on the cost of big bank fiascos – part 1

Close up of stage coach. Strong box would be stored behind driver’s feet. Photo at Wells Fargo’s San Diego museum by James Ulvog.

For well over a year and a half lots of life has been happening to me. Have had to set priorities on what I can and cannot do, which means I’ve not been focusing on the ongoing fiascos and foolishness and waste as the big banks get caught with a never ending list of laws they have violated in stupendously spectacular ways.

Yet another in a string of money laundering settlements hit the news yesterday which drew my attention. So, I’ll try to do a little catch-up on the billions of stockholder dollars the big money banks have been continually throwing on the bonfire over the last two years.

Wells Fargo staying in the headlines.

Photo at Wells Fargo San Diego museum in October 2016 by James Ulvog.

When I look at the news about Wells Fargo over the last few months, it is amazing to see the number of individual messes the bank has and the amount of time it is taking to get past the issues. Also odd is that new issues are surfacing every month or two. Here are a few articles that I notices in the last month:

8/15/17 – Emily Glazer at Wall Street Journal – Wells Fargo Elevates Former Fed Governor Elizabeth Duke to Chairman Role – As was previously expected (and reported by Ms. Glazer), the bank will replace its current board chair with the former Federal Reserve governor.  This is not as big a deal as it would otherwise seem. The current board chair would have hit the bank’s mandatory retirement age four months later anyway.

8/18 – Reuters – Wells Fargo troubles shift from phony bank accounts to real ones – The bank disclosed yet another problem in regulatory filings, explaining the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is looking at the bank improperly closing real accounts.

Helpful comments from 2017 CalCPA Not-for-profit conference, part 1

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Here are a few of the comments from the May 24, 2017 Not-for-profit conference presented by California Society of CPAs that I thought would be of interest to others in the nonprofit community. Since all comments are the opinion of the speaker, neither their name nor organization will be mentioned. The ideas mentioned can stand or fall on their own.

This is the first of two posts. The next discussion will address changes in financial statement presentation outlined in ASU 2016-14. In this post: tax, revenue recognition, and single audit.

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Tax update:

  • It might just be possible that filing a form 1023 or 1023-EZ is so easy that people can get exempt status for an organization without knowing the requirements to properly operate a charity and maintain exempt status. In examinations to follow-up on exempt status, the IRS is finding a lot of charities are out of compliance.
  • One of several focuses of the IRS is filing of FBARs, those forms used to report overseas bank accounts. One ripple effect of chasing money laundering is the impact on charities who have overseas accounts. Even though there is minimal risk of those accounts being used for tax evasion the FBAR filing requirement still apply. As a reminder, the deadline for filing FBARs is now April 15 with a six-month extension available.

Minor updates while we wait for more news on the PCAOB leak to KPMG

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There is little new information on the leak from PCAOB to KPMG since the first reports.

I’m expecting to hear a lot more, most likely after PCAOB and SEC finish their investigation. If I read this situation correctly, and if public reports are correct, there will be sanctions from SEC against some of the KPMG staff. At that point, the SEC public documents will tell us a lot more.

While we wait, here are two articles that give some general background.

4/17/17 – Francine McKenna at re:The Auditors – KPMG takes its turn with a Big 4-sized scandal – If you’ve been looking for an article with a long time horizon to survey the assorted scandals in the Big 4 world, this post will give you the deep background you want.

Leak from PCAOB to KPMG

Post describes the current information that is public on the leak of inspection engagements from someone at PCAOB to someone at KPMG. Article illustrates there still is not a lot visible in the public realm to answer all the questions that come to mind.

Ms. McKenna quotes my comment earlier on the PCAOB-KPMG leak feeling to me like a red flag of something deeper. She agrees with me.

Each firm has their own round of fiascos

All the firms have had their turn of embarrassing publicity, often with fines or undisclosed settlements.

Update on Panama Papers – 11/22

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Image courtesy of

Either there hasn’t been much going in the money laundering news or I’ve not paid enough attention. On the other hand, governmental investigations are run behind the scenes. Perhaps the regulators are working out of sight.

Here are a few articles I’ve noticed in the last few months.

7/28 – U.S. Prosecutors Probe ‘Panama Papers’ Law Firm’s Employees – Leaks say Department of Justice has opened an investigation of various staff in the D.C. office of Mossack Fonseca.

Pondering on the Wells Fargo fiasco and more news

Original finish on mud wagon used by subcontractor to Wells Fargo on San Diego-Julian run in 1870s. Wagon is housed at the Seeley Stable Museum in Old Town San Diego Historic Park. April 2012 photo by James Ulvog.
Original finish is visible on mud wagon used by subcontractor to Wells Fargo on the San Diego-Julian run in 1870s. Lighter and cheaper than the Concord wagon, this was useful in desert and mountain areas. Wagon is housed at the Seeley Stable Museum in Old Town San Diego Historic Park. April 2012 photo by James Ulvog.

Here’s a few articles that were interesting to me in the last two days about the Wells Fargo fiasco, previously discussed here, here and here.

  • First, a digression into the ethics and audit issues of systemic faking of accounts and coding diesel engines to cheat.
  • Next, pondering whether there will be any clawback of the $124M bonuses from the senior executive who managed the retail banking area.
  • Finally, two articles describing the DoJ opening a preliminary investigation.

9/14 – Prof. Mike Shaub at Bottom Line Ethics – Plausible deniability and the insulation of upper management – Prof Shaub ponders two fiascos in the news for the deeper ethical issues. Both the Volkswagon diesel engine scheme and the Wells Fargo fake account fiasco reflect poorly not only on the companies and their culture, but the state of ethics in business and our society.

We, collectively, need to grapple with those issues.

The article raises unsettling issues for auditors. Let’s ponder for a moment…How can we detect corporate cultures and entity tone-at-the-top environments which allow building a cheating code into the core operation of a company’s software? How can we detect an environment that incentivizes staff to cheat customers or risk losing their jobs for not hitting sales targets? Those are sobering questions.

A few more updates in the ongoing world-wide banking fiascos

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A few recent reports: Reason for no criminal prosecution of one too-big-to-fail bank is that it was TBTF, an indictment and a settlement in forex cases, and progress in the money laundering investigations.

Since I use the term a lot, here is a definition of fiasco from Google:

a thing that is a complete failure, especially in a ludicrous or humiliating way. Synonyms: failure, disaster, catastrophe, debacle, shambles, farce, mess, wreck.

Seems to me throwing away $530 million of bank capital because bank staff and leaders wanted to cheat customers meets the definition of fiasco.

7/11 – Francine McKenna at Market Watch – HSBC wasn’t prosecuted because it was ‘too big to fail’: House Committee – A House committee concluded that HSBC wasn’t prosecuted for willful AML violations because it was TBTF. One part of the violations was intentionally leaving out of wire instructions any indication that the funds were related to activity in countries with bans.

Staff recommendations were to pursue a criminal prosecution. Attorney General Eric Holder determined the systemic risk was too high and thus agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement.

Updates on banking fiascos

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Image courtesy of

A few articles that have caught my eye on varied aspects of the overall range of banking fiascos in play:

4/14 – New York Times – How Regulators Mess With Bankers’ Minds, and Why That’s Good News the previous week was that many of the huge banks failed their ‘living will’ test. Each bank that is labeled as having ‘systemic risk’ must submit for approval a plan on how they would wind down in the event of failure. The purpose is to show they would not take down the entire financial system.

This article points out the banks were not told what their living will should contain or what it should look like.

As an expected result, likely intentional, the banks’ plans failed the test. When you don’t know how the test will be scored, or even what will be on the test, you are unlikely to pass. Sort of like having to turn in a term paper without know what topic the professor will select.

Again, this article thinks it is wonderful that the banks are evaluated on criteria that are not disclosed to them.

Oh, the things you can learn from the Panama Papers. Did you know that documenting ownership of a shell company through bearer stocks is even a real thing?

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Image courtesy of

Yes, it is actually possible to organize your offshore company with the ownership documented with bearer stocks. Join me as I dive into the fine details of a WSJ article.

4/6 – Wall Street Journal – Panama Papers: Hiding Cash Has Become Crummy Business – Even Switzerland has joined the crackdown on hiding money. Prosecutors there leaked information on the Malaysian scandal. That’s a whole other story that I won’t go into. The point is Swiss prosecutors are going after money launderers and embezzlers. Swiss prosecutors.  You know, from Switzerland. Land-of-the-numbered-account Switzerland.

More detail from the article:

The offshore “business” has been shrinking for a long time. Article says the firm of Mossack Fonseca & Co saw a two-thirds decline in the number of companies they incorporated between 2005 and 2015, dropping from 13,287 to 4,341 in a decade.

Article says the Panama Papers say the law firm’s clients have incorporated 16,323 companies over the last three years but have closed up 28,777 in the same time. That’s a net shrinkage of over 12,000.

The company represented around 6,000 businesses in 2005 whose ownership was evidenced using bearer shares. Currently they represent 170. That’s a drop of 97% in a decade in the number of clients using bearer shares.

Bearer shares. Did you know that was even a thing? Before I get to that, let me describe bearer bonds.

Bearer bonds

Massive document leak on offshore banking. Intro to the Panama Papers.

Old style money laundering. Image courtesy of
Old style money laundering. Image courtesy of

A massive amount of whistle blower information was announced over the weekend. The files are from a large law firm in Panama that helped companies and individuals set up offshore companies. This is called the Panama Papers.

There are many legitimate reasons to use offshore companies. There are many illegitimate reasons too.

I’ve just started looking at the story. Here are a few introductory tidbits.

Barclays’ cost of dealing with fiascos is close to half of pre-settlement income over last 5 years

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Image courtesy of

Previously discussed Barclays drawing a £72M (US$109M) fine for breaking British anti-money laundering laws and calculating the fine is equal to about six workdays worth of net income before costs of settlements.

While calculating magnitude of costs from this settlement, I noticed the income statement shows there have been huge reserves set up for settlements.

Fines and legal fees in last 4 years

The fines and legal fees over the last four years for all of the fiascos the bank has engaged in are a large portion of net income.

Minor updates on bank fiascoes and settlements

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Image courtesy of

A few articles on various bank fiascos: first private settlement for manipulating LIBOR, two rumored criminal investigations for selling MBS’s, and a billion dollar settlement for money laundering.

11/13 – Reuters – Barclays in $120 mln settlement of Libor case – lawyers – Barclays is first out of the gate settling private lawsuits in US for manipulating Libor. …

More articles on banking and accounting fiascos

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Image courtesy of

Another bank, Credit Agricole, settles up for money laundering, with tab under a billion. Standard Chartered under a new investigation. Toshiba identifies 30 more senior staff who participated in the accounting schemes.

10/1 – Accounting Today – Toshiba Says 30 More Executives Names in Accounting Scandal – In addition to three former presidents resigning, an additional 30 executives have been identified in as players in the Toshiba book cooking scandal.  None of the 30 will be fired.

Current over statement of income is estimated at US$1.3B in the article with a US$6B loss in market value.

10/20 – Wall Street Journal – Credit Agricole to Pay $787 Million in U.S. Sanctions Case  and IRS – Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank Admits to Sanction Violations, Agrees to Forfeit $312 Million.

Another bank had institutional policies to willfully circumvent US rules on money laundering for banks and individuals in sanctioned countries. NY DFS says total laundered amount was $32B. The bank admitted to one felony charge in a deferred prosecution agreement.