I’m in the middle of a deep dive in the Section 215 White Paper — expect plenty of analysis on it in coming attractions!
But I want to make a discrete point about this passage, which describes what happen to query results.
Results of authorized queries are stored and are available only to those analysts trained in the restrictions on the handling and dissemination of the metadata. Query results can be further analyzed only for valid foreign intelligence purposes. Based on this analysis of the data, the NSA then provides leads to the FBI or others in the Intelligence Community. For U.S. persons, these leads are limited to counterterrorism investigations.
The Primary Order released several weeks back calls these stored query results “the corporate store.” As ACLU laid out, the government can do pretty much whatever it wants with this corporate store — and their analysis of it is not audited.
All of this information, the primary order says, is dumped into something called the “corporate store.” Incredibly, the FISC imposes norestrictions on what analysts may subsequently do with the information. The FISC’s primary order contains a crucially revealing footnote stating that “the Court understands that NSA may apply the full range of SIGINT analytic tradecraft to the result of intelligence analysis queries of the collected [telephone] metadata.” In short, once a calling record is added to the corporate store, anything goes.
More troubling, if the government is combining the results of all its queries in this “corporate store,” as seems likely, then it has a massive pool of telephone data that it can analyze in any way it chooses, unmoored from the specific investigations that gave rise to the initial queries. To put it in individual terms: If, for some reason, your phone number happens to be within three hops of an NSA target, all of your calling records may be in the corporate store, and thus available for any NSA analyst to search at will.
But it’s even worse than that. The primary order prominently states that whenever the government accesses the wholesale telephone-metadata database, “an auditable record of the activity shall be generated.” It might feel fairly comforting to know that, if the government abuses its access to all Americans’ call data, it might eventually be called to account—until you read footnote 6 of the primary order, which exempts entirely the government’s use of the “corporate store” from the audit-trail requirement.
The passage from the White Paper seems to suggest there are limits (though it doesn’t explain where they come from, because they clearly don’t come from FISC).
This analysis must have a valid foreign intelligence purpose — which can include political information, economic information, espionage information, military information, drug information, and the like. Anything other countries do, basically.
But if the data in the corporate store pertains to US persons, the FBI can only get a lead “for counterterrorism purposes.”
At one level, this is (small) comfort, because it provides a level of protection on the dragnet use.
But it also may explain why HSBC’s US subsidiary didn’t get caught laundering al Qaeda’s money, or why JP Morgan always gets to self-disclose its support for Iranian “terrorism.” So long as the government chooses not to treat banks laundering money for terrorists as material support for terror, then they can consider these links (which surely they’ve come across in their “corporate store!) evidence of a financial crime, not a terrorist one, and just bury it.
I would be curious, though, whether the government has ever used the “corporate store” to police Iran sanctions. Does that count as a counterterrorism purpose? And if so, is that why Treasury “finds” evidence of international bank violations so much more often than it does American bank violations?
Citing this line from Lanny Breuer in last week’s Frontline program,
I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand.
Sherrod Brown and Chuck Grassley have sent a list of questions they want Eric Holder to answer by February 8.
The questions are:
I’m interested in their focus on contractors. Has someone like Promontory Financial Group been making these decisions too?
In any case I await Holder’s non-responsive answer with bated breath.
Yesterday, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued two orders to JP Morgan Chase, one related to its London Fail Whale, the other related to failures in its Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering compliance. With respect to latter order, OCC said, in part:
(1) The OCC’s examination findings establish that the Bank has deficiencies in its BSA/AML compliance program. These deficiencies have resulted in the failure to correct a previously reported problem and a BSA/AML compliance program violation under 12 U.S.C. § 1818(s) and its implementing regulation, 12 C.F.R. § 21.21 (BSA Compliance Program). In addition, the Bank has violated 12 C.F.R. § 21.11 (Suspicious Activity Report Filings).
(2) The Bank has failed to adopt and implement a compliance program that adequately covers the required BSA/AML program elements due to an inadequate system of internal controls, and ineffective independent testing. The Bank did not develop adequate due diligence on customers, particularly in the Commercial and Business Banking Unit, a repeat problem, and failed to file all necessary Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”) related to suspicious customer activity.
(3) The Bank failed to correct previously identified systemic weaknesses in the adequacy of customer due diligence and the effectiveness of monitoring in light of the customers’ cash activity and business type, constituting a deficiency in its BSA/AML compliance program and resulting in a violation of 12 U.S.C. § 1818(s)(3)(B).
That last one is the real peach. You see, in spite of the fact the order includes 22 pages of things JPMC “shall” do to fix this problem, the order did not include any fine. Remember, it has been less than 18 months since JPMC got caught–among other things–sending a ton of gold bullion to Iran in violation of sanctions. That time, at least, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls fined JPMC, if only $88.3 million.
Still, here were are a year and a half later, with JPMC still refusing to police what it is helping its customers do, and the government is letting JPMC off with no fine.
Compare that to the treatment of Karen Gasparian, the manager of the G&A Check Cashing company out in LA. Today, he got sentenced to five years in prison for doing precisely what Jamie Dimon did: fail to comply with BSA/AML law. In his sentencing, he even submitted record of all the big banks that have skated for doing what he did, including HSBC’s 1.9 Billion wrist slap, and noted the disparity in treatment.
An even greater problem with the Government’s seeking a sentence of incarceration in this case is the disparity when compared to other instances of the same offense, or instances involving even more egregious conduct, such as much larger financial institutions conducting business with drug trafficking organizations and terroristic regimes like Iran. Time and time again, the United States Government has offered deferred prosecution agreements (and fines) to financial institutions whose conduct was exponentially more egregious than the conduct at issue here. Mr. Gasparian’s offense, while serious, was still far short of the conduct committed by these other institutions. Any sentence of incarceration in this case would be a loud proclamation that the rich and powerful receive one type of justice, while those less powerful receive another type.
The government, of course, insisted on enhancements to Gasparian’s sentence because his crime amounted to over $100,000 in a one year period (the government sent two confidential witnesses to cash checks at G&A, which is how they proved that amount).
Remember HSBC provided over $990 million in cash to a terrorist bank over a four year period. All that’s before you consider their money laundering for Mexican cartels and probable Russian mafia. Not a single HSBC employee was so much as indicted, much less sent to jail for five years or for a lifetime for material support for terrorism.
And now JPMC–and its “manager,” Jamie Dimon–not only get off without indictments, but without even a fine (at least not from OCC–OFAC may end up fining them).
The government submitted a bunch of sealed documents explaining why Gasparian should be treated so much more harshly than the big banks. I’m just going to assume the government explained what great intelligence work the big banks are doing to avoid being subjected to the rule of law.
Predictably, Lanny Breuer
waved his dick around boasted about this conviction.
“Karen Gasparian, Humberto Sanchez and their company G&A Check Cashing purposefully thwarted the Bank Secrecy Act, making it easier for others to use G&A to commit illegal activity,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “They knew they were required to report transactions over $10,000, but deliberately failed to do so. As this case shows, check cashing businesses must adhere to our anti-money laundering rules, or else pay the consequences.”
This is the guy who, just one month ago, failed to even mention he was letting a bank that sent hundreds of millions in cash to a terrorist bank off without any charges.
At this point, it’s beginning to look like DOJ’s disparate treatment is not just about preserving his buddies the CEOs. But it’s about eliminating the little competitors like G&A so the equally corrupt big banks can take over their markets.
Update: Adding this from the government’s sentencing motion. The government insisted that Gasparian do time … as a deterrent.
Because there are hundreds of check cashers in Los Angeles as well as an underlying health care fraud problem, it is more important that the sentence here be sufficient to promote respect for the law and general deterrence for the types of criminal activities defendant engaged in as well as the health care fraudsters. A significant sentence is also necessary to reflect the serious [sic] of the offense, deter criminal conduct, and protect the public from defendant.
It has been less than 18 months since JP Morgan Chase was fined $88.3 million for–among other things–sending a ton of gold bullion to Iran.
Yet JPMC’s regulators are about to scold JPMC–and demand it improve the compliance programs it promised to improve 18 months ago–again.
Only, having found JPMC didn’t implement the promised compliance programs after being fined, JPMC’s regulators this time will not fine the bank for violating US law.
A U.S. regulatory probe of JP Morgan Chase & Co is expected to result in an order that the bank correct lapses in how it polices suspect money flows, in an action expected as soon as Friday, people familiar with the situation said.
The action would be in the form of a cease-and-desist order, whichregulators use to force banks to improve compliance weaknesses, the sources said.
The order is expected to be issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve.
JP Morgan is not expected to pay a monetary penalty, according to one person familiar with the situation.
This is what counts as seriousness from US bank regulators–ever quieting peeps when American banks openly flout the law (they’re a bit harsher with European banks, though still believe in forgiving such banks for things like material support to terrorism).
A teenager busted for shoplifting would pay more in fines than JPMC reportedly will pay for helping crooks–even alleged assassins–do their crime.
When I first read that the government was going to investigate JP Morgan Chase ∂for money laundering, I thought this was another case where the government continued to give wrist slaps–in the form of softball fines–to banks for behavior that never really changed. And to some degree that will be the case. After all, little more than a year ago Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control accused Jamie Dimon’s company of a whole slew of things, including sending Iran a ton (literally) of gold bullion. And in spite of the fact OFAC said JPMC substantially cooperated with their investigation so they could give it a softball fine, the settlement actually made it clear they had done anything but. (Though the softball fine may have also had something to do with what I suspect was cooperation on setting up the Scary Iran Plot.)
So here we are again, investigating JPMC for money laundering. Again.
But I wonder whether this doesn’t reflect an effort on the part of the Office of Comptroller and Currency, which the NYT says is leading the probe, to improve on its past willful neglect in this area.
Regulators, led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, are close to taking action against JPMorgan Chase for insufficient safeguards, the officials said. The agency is also scrutinizing several other Wall Street giants, including Bank of America.
The comptroller’s office could issue a cease-and-desist order to JPMorgan in coming months, an action that would force the bank to plug any gaps in oversight, according to several people knowledgeable about the matter. But the agency, which oversees the nation’s biggest banks, has not yet completed its case. JPMorgan is in the spotlight partly because federal authorities accused the bank last year of transferring money in violation of United States sanctions against Cuba and Iran.
Since OFAC let JPMC off with a wrist slap last year, the OCC has gotten a new confirmed head, Thomas Curry, from FDIC, and gotten rid of a corrupt Chief Counsel, Julie Williams. OCC also got hammered in Carl Levin’s report on HSBC’s money laundering.
To carry out [its oversight] mission, in the words of the OCC, it conducts “regular examinations to ensure that institutions under our supervision operate safely and soundly and in compliance with laws and regulations,” including AML laws. However, the HSBC case history, like the Riggs Bank case history examined by this Subcommittee eight years ago, provides evidence that the current OCC examination system has tolerated severe AML deficiencies for years and given banks great leeway to address targeted AML problems without ensuring the effectiveness of their AML program as a whole. As a result, the current OCC examination process has allowed AML issues to accumulate into a massive problem before an OCC enforcement action is taken.
As DDay noted earlier, Treasury will ignore that Standard Chartered signed a settlement confirming that it had hidden $250 billion worth of transfers by gaming its documentation so that it can sign a softball unified settlement with everyone else.
It’s more important that SCB get its softball settlement, I guess, than Treasury maintain even a shred of credibility.
But in addition to simply ignoring that earlier settlement, Treasury is also giving this excuse for its softball settlement.
Prosecutors and Treasury officials will also assess a smaller penalty because the bank came forward voluntarily with information about its transactions and compliance with United States sanctions, according to the law enforcement officials.
Remember this, from Benjamin Lawsky’s original settlement?
At a meeting in May 2010, SCB assured the Department that it would take immediate corrective action. Notwithstanding that promise, the Department‟s last regulatory examination of the New York branch in 2011 identified continuing and significant BSA/AML
- An OFAC compliance system that lacked the ability to identify misspellings and variations of names on the OFAC sanctioned list.
- No documented evidence of investigation before release of funds for transactions with parties whose names matched the OFAC-sanctioned list.
- Outsourcing of the entire OFAC compliance process for the New York branch to Chennai, India, with no evidence of any oversight or communication between the Chennai and the New York offices. [my emphasis]
As of last year, SCB wasn’t even doing what they claimed they were doing to fix this problem. More troubling, they had replicated what they and other banks had done before, simply send the office engaging in this fraud so far away from the US so as to offer the US branch plausible deniability.
That’s what counts as “voluntary” cooperation in TurboTax Timmeh Geithner’s Treasury Department: ongoing efforts to continue engaging in the same kind of games.
In February, here’s what Jennifer Shasky Calvery said in testimony before a House Subcommittee.
These staggering amounts of money in the hands of some of the worst criminal elements create a terrifyingly vicious cycle – money enables [the crooks] to corrupt the economic and political systems in which they operate, thereby allowing them to consolidate and expand their power and influence, which gives rise to more opportunity to commit crime and generate revenue.
Mind you, I’m cherry picking a quote from testimony about Transnational Crime Organizations. But it shows the blindness DOJ (and the Administration generally) have had as they try to repurpose their counter-terrorism tools to combat transnational crime: to some extent, what’s true of drug cartels is also true of the banks that have escaped prosecution even while doing as much damage as the drug cartels.
And yet we never get around to prosecuting our own transnational criminal organizations, the banks.
It’s worth keeping in mind, now that Shasky Calvery takes over at Treasury’s FinCEN, the part of the Agency that makes sure corporations are complying with reporting requirements of suspected financial crimes.
NY’s Superintendent of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky, yesterday dropped the hammer on the UK’s Standard Chartered Bank, accusing it of doctoring financial documents to facilitate the laundering of Iranian money through its US banks.
Like Yves, I think one of the most striking details about this story is that SFS–and not Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls–is making the accusation.
But it also appears that Lawsky has end run, as in embarrassed, the Treasury and the New York Fed. As part of its defense, SCB contends it was already cooperating with Federal regulators:
In January 2010, the Group voluntarily approached all relevant US agencies, including the DFS, and informed them that we had initiated a review of historical US dollar transactions and their compliance with US sanctions…The Group waived its attorney-client and work product privileges to ensure that all the US agencies would receive all relevant information.
The agencies in question are “DFS, the Department of Justice, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve Group of New York and the District Attorney of New York.”
The lack of action by everyone ex the lowly New York banking supervisor is mighty troubling. The evidence presented in Lawsky’s filing is compelling; he clearly has not gone off half cocked. Why has he pressed forward and announced this on his own? The Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has supposedly been all over terrorist finance; the consultants to that effort typically have very high level security clearances and top level access (one colleague who worked on this effort in the Paulson Treasury could get the former ECB chief Trichet on the phone). For them not to have pursued it anywhere as aggressively as a vastly less well resourced state banking regulator, particularly when Iran is now the designated Foreign Enemy #1, does not pass the smell test.
Normally, we’d see accusations like SFS released today from Treasury’s OFAC, perhaps (for charges as scandalous as these) in conjunction with the NY DA and/or a US Attorney. And yet OFAC has had these materials in hand for 2 years, and has done nothing.
In fact, we have a pretty good idea what OFAC’s action would look like, because earlier this year it sanctioned ING for actions that were similar in type, albeit larger in number (20,000 versus 60,000) and far larger in dollar amount ($1.6 billion involving Cuba versus $250 billion involving Iran). Both banks were doctoring fields in SWIFT forms to hide the source or destination of their transfers.
Beginning in 2001, ING Curacao increasingly used MT 202 cover payments to send Cuba-related payments to unaffiliated U.S. banks, which would not have to include originator or beneficiary information related to Cuban parties. For serial payments, up until the beginning of 2003, NCB populated field 50 of the outgoing SWIFT MT 103 message with its own name or Bank Identifier Code, Beginning in the second quarter of 2003, NCB populated field 50 with its customer’s name, but omitted address information. ING Curacao also included its customer’s name, but no address information, in field 50 of outgoing SWIFT messages.
Rather than institute [a required to ensure the funds didn't come from Iran], SCB instead conspired with Iranian Clients to transmit misinformation to the New York branch by removing and otherwise misrepresenting wire transfer data that could identify Iranian parties. For example, regarding necessary wire transfer documentation, SCB instructed CBI/Markazi to “send in their MT 202‟s with a [SCB London‟s business identifier code] as this is what we required them to do in the initial set up of the account. Therefore, the payments going to NY do not appear to NY to have come from an Iranian Bank.” (emphasis added). SCB also accomplished this subterfuge by: (a) inserting special characters (such as “.”) in electronic message fields used to identify transacting parties; Continue reading
As I noted earlier, the Tax Justice Network just released a study showing that there is somewhere between $21 and 32$ Trillion that tax cheats have hidden in tax havens. Really obscenely rich people like Mitt Romney make up for $9.8 trillion of that–or about 18% of the total liquid net worth in the world, hidden away in tax havens.
But there are two other tables from the study that bear notice. The study suggests that the money stashed in tax havens has been growing steadily at a rate of 16% a year.
Our analysis finds that at the end of 2010 the Top 50 private banks alone collectively managed more than $12.1 trillion in cross-‐border invested assets for private clients, including their trusts and foundations. This is up from $5.4 trillion in 2005, representing an average annual growth rate of more than 16%.
But that’s sort of misleading. As the table above makes clear, the amount in tax havens grew by 67% between 2002 and 2004, then grew by 40% in the following two years, then by another 23% in the last year of the bubble. Then it crashed, basically losing that 23% and plateauing for a year. And then it started growing again, 18% between 2009 and 2010. And who knows how much in the last year?
The banksters paid a price for 2 years, but the looting has begun again.
What I find particularly interesting–though I’m not sure what to make of it–is the changing share of looter service the big banks are doing. While UBS’ tax shelter dollars continued to grow, they lost market share among tax cheats. Meanwhile Goldman Sachs’ tax shelter dollars almost quadrupled in that time. Bank of America and Wells Fargo made big gains too (though Morgan Stanley’s tax cheat business shrank and JP Morgan’s was somewhat flat.
Like I said, I don’t know what to make of it. But it sure seems like since the crash at least some of the banks have decided to recover by catering to tax cheats.
Lovely. Some of the same banks that are still in business because tax payers bailed them out are increasingly some of the biggest players in facilitating the looting of our own–and every other–country.
Update: This Title was changed.
Reuters reports this morning that Japan’s lower house of parliament has passed a law authorizing creation of a new nuclear regulatory agency. The second paragraph of the story stands out to me:
The 2011 Fukushima disaster cast a harsh spotlight on the cozy ties between regulators, politicians and utilities – known as Japan’s “nuclear village” – that experts say were a major factor in the failure to avert the crisis triggered when a huge earthquake and tsunami devastated the plant, causing meltdowns.
The underlying cause of the “nuclear village” where regulators are captured by the industry they regulate and the politicians also are owned by the same system applies equally as well to the situation that enabled the meltdown of global financial markets in 2008. There is far less recognition of the village aspect of Wall Street’s lack of regulation in the financial crisis, and where there have been moves ostensibly toward regulation or even prosecution of crimes, they have been a sham:
On March 9 — 45 days after the speech and 30 days after the announcement — we met with Schneiderman in New York City and asked him for an update. He had just returned from Washington, where he had been personally looking for office space. As of that date, he had no office, no phones, no staff and no executive director. None of the 55 staff members promised by Holder had materialized. On April 2, we bumped into Schneiderman on a train leaving Washington for New York and learned that the situation was the same.
Tuesday, calls to the Justice Department’s switchboard requesting to be connected with the working group produced the answer, “I really don’t know where to send you.” After being transferred to the attorney general’s office and asking for a phone number for the working group, the answer was, “I’m not aware of one.”
The promises of the President have led to little or no concrete action.
In fact, the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group was the sixth such entity formed since the start of the financial crisis in 2009. The grand total of staff working for all of the previous five groups was one, according to a surprised Schneiderman. In Washington, where staffs grow like cherry blossoms, this is a remarkable occurrence.
We are led to conclude that Donovan was right. The settlement and working group — taken together — were a coup: a public relations coup for the White House and the banks. The media hailed the resolution for a few days and then turned their attention to other topics and controversies.
But for 12 million American homeowners, collectively $700 billion under water, this was just another in a long series of sham transactions.
Perhaps in homage to the Schneiderman and other sham units, the Reuters article on Japan’s new agency does show a bit of caution regarding the new agency:
The legislation, however, swiftly came under fire for appearing to weaken the government’s commitment to decommissioning reactors after 40 years in operation, even as it drafts an energy program to reduce nuclear power’s role.
Under a deal ending months of bickering by ruling and opposition parties, the new regulatory commission could revise a rule limiting the life of reactors to 40 years in principle.
“Does this reflect the sentiment of the citizens, who are seeking an exit from nuclear power?” queried an editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun daily. “Won’t it instead make what was supposed to be a rare exception par for the course?”
And as for the coziness between politicians in the US and the financial industry, we need look no further than Wednesday’s appearance by Jamie Dimon before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. One of Marcy’s tweets during the hearing says all we need to know about that “hearing”:
BOB CORKER WIPE THAT SPOOGE FROM YOUR CHIN RIGHT NOW!
Japan’s response to its meltdown has been to shut down all nuclear plants while the framework for how they will operate if they are allowed to restart is debated. Imagine how much better off the world would be if JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs had been shut down while a proper regulatory framework for them was developed.