Business

Ed Drake

Just deserts: Morgan Stanley fined for money laundering failings

In an ironic turn of events, banking group Morgan Stanley has been handed a substantial fine for anti-money laundering (AML) failures, despite previously criticizing cryptocurrency exchanges for a lax approach to AML checks.

Morgan Stanley, known to be amongst a group of major global banks opposed to the proliferation of cryptocurrencies as an alternative financial system, was fined $10 million for failures in its own processes, which regulators said “failed to adequately detect and coordinate the supervision of certain suspicious transactions within its anti-money-laundering program for more than five years,” according to Wall Street Journal  report.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) said that the automatic surveillance measures in place at Morgan Stanley were missing essential data, including in transactions in foreign currency from known-risk countries, as well as tens of billions of dollars’ worth of wire transfers.

The regulator went on to criticise Morgan Stanley for failing to implement proper means of reviewing its systems, despite faults being identified, leading to consistent failings over a number of years.

According to media reports, Morgan Stanley accepted the fine, and said that they were working on improving the systems in place around their AML program. WSJ quoted the banking giant as saying, “We are pleased to have resolved this matter from several years ago. We continuously work to strengthen our controls and have been recognized by Finra for the extraordinary steps we have taken to expand and enhance our AML program.”

The news comes just a matter of weeks after another global banking giant, Deutsche Bank, was raided by authorities over implications of money laundering, with investigations focusing on some $354 million of suspected ‘dirty money’ moving through the bank.

Evidence uncovered the bank’s involvement in setting up offshore accounts for suspect clients, which the authorities suggest could have been used to illicitly move money overseas to more secretive jurisdictions.

Similarly, as recently as September, Danske Bank lost its CEO, who resigned after money laundering on the scale of potentially hundreds of billions of dollars had been uncovered at the bank—volumes larger than the entire market cap of all cryptocurrencies.

While Morgan Stanley is the latest to be taken to task for these failings, some analysts have noted the contradiction, with large banks amongst the most vociferous voices against the development of cryptocurrency and alternative financial systems.

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