OFAC

The CIA (&etc) Money Orders

NSL v 215Both the NYT (Charlie Savage and Mark Mazzetti) and WSJ (Siobhan Gorman, Devlin Barrett, and Jennifer Valentine-Devries) tell the same story today: the CIA is collecting bulk data on international money transfers. Given that someone has decided to deal this story to two papers at the same time, and given the number of times the Administration has pre-leaked stories to Gorman of late to increasingly spectacular effect (even making most national security journalists forget the very existence of GCHQ’s notoriously voracious taps at cable landings just off Europe) I assume this may be some kind of limited hangout.

It’s not that I doubt in the least that CIA gets and uses financial data. I don’t even doubt the government uses PATRIOT authorities to do so (as both stories assert).

But it would be unlikely that this data comes in through an FBI order and does not also get shared with Treasury and National Counterterrorism Center (if not NSA), both of which would have better infrastructure for analyzing it, and both of which we know to use such data for their known intelligence products. Indeed, in response to a question from both papers about this practice Western Union points to Treasury programs.

 A spokeswoman for one large company that handles money transfers abroad, Western Union, did not directly address a question about whether it had been ordered to turn over records in bulk, but said that the company complies with legal requirements to provide information.

“We collect consumer information to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws,” said the spokeswoman, Luella Chavez D’Angelo. “In doing so, we also protect our consumers’ privacy.”

And at WSJ a consultant to the industry points even more firmly towards Treasury.

Money-transfer companies are “highly, highly aware of their obligations under the Patriot Act,” said Robert Pargac, a director in global investigations and compliance at Navigant Consulting Inc. who has worked at several such companies. Western Union said last month it would be spending about 4% of its revenue in 2014 on compliance with rules under the Patriot Act, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and other anti-money-laundering and terrorist-financing requirements.

We know that, at least until 2008, the FBI maintained that it could share materials that came in through Section 215 with any agency so long as that agency asserted it had a need for the information, and there’s little reason to believe the FBI has changed that policy. So I would assume at least Treasury and NCTC gets this data as well. It may be all this story indicates is that — as they do with much Section 702 data — CIA gets its own access to the data. That’s a minimization story, not a collection story, because we’ve known this data was collected (as WSJ points out).

Then there’s the evidence both papers point to to show that this is a Section 215 program. Continue reading

Obama’s Treasury Department: Our Sanctions Regime Is SEKRIT

Screen shot 2013-02-20 at 12.48.34 PMTreasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control just sent out its invite for a symposium helping the Financial Industry learn about how to comply with sanctions. The symposium will include the following:

The Financial Symposium will feature a Keynote Address by OFAC Director Adam Szubin and presentations by key OFAC personnel on topics such as:

  • Changes to the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, NDAA and CISADA
  • Enforcement guidelines and enforcement actions
  • SDN List updates and information on the designation process
  • Securities and Insurance
  • Licensing procedures and guidance
  • Compliance with U.S. economic and trade sanctions

In addition to formal presentations, OFAC staff will be available throughout the day for individual questions and ad hoc roundtable discussion on issues unique to the financial industry.

It’s actually fairly important that the sanctions regime be well-publicized. Not only does it help ensure compliance from any entity that might be considered liable. But that’s what gives it legitimacy: not just the fact that sanctions and their rationale appear well thought out (if you believe Iranians should have no access to medical devices and dental equipment, that is), but also that sanctions are somewhat fairly applied (which they’re not).

Apparently, Obama’s Treasury Department doesn’t see it this way.

 The event is closed to press.

How Treasury Justified a $13 Million Smaller SCB Settlement than NYS

Back in August, Standard Chartered Bank settled with New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services for laundering Iran and other sanctioned countries’ money; that settlement was for $340 million.

Today, Treasury announced its settlement for the same fraud. Today’s settlement–which includes “U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the New York County District Attorney’s Office; as well as orders involving the Board of Governors with the cooperation of the UK’s Financial Services Authority,”–is for $327 million, of which Treasury’s take is $132 million.

When SCB settled with SFS, it admitted that its fraud had covered $250 billion in transactions (thus refuting the dubious work done by Promotory Financial).

The New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) and Standard Chartered Bank (“Bank”) have reached an agreement to settle the matters raised in the DFS Order dated August 6, 2012. The parties have agreed that the conduct at issue involved transactions of at least $250 billion. [my emphasis]

But today’s Treasury settlement shrinks that claim this way:

While SCB’s omission of information affected approximately 60,000 transactions related to Iran totaling $250 billion, the vast majority of these transactions do not appear to have been violations of the Iranian Transaction Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 due to authorizations and exemptions which were in place at the time.

Treasury would have us believe that SCB engaged in fraud to hide Iran’s involvement of money transfers even with legitimate transfers.

Maybe that’s right. Without a lot more transparency, we’ll just have to take Treasury’s word for the claim that the vast majority of money Iran was transferring up to 2008 didn’t fall under sanctions in place at the time, as dubious as that is.

Now, none of this addresses the scope of the violations involving other sanctioned countries, such as the $96 million transfered to Sudan described in the Treasury settlement but not the SFS one. Nor does it address the $243,500 it transfered for a designated drug kingpin, Connect Telecom, in 2011, after SCB had already started discussing these issues with “certain law enforcement agencies” and NYS.

It also relies on this claim:

OFAC had not issued a penalty notice of Finding of Violation against SCB in the five years preceding the apparent violations.

To make SCB look compliant, even though the Fed had been in discussions with SCB about these violations starting in 2004.

And of course, it includes this language:

Without this Agreement constituting an admission or denial by SCB of any allegation made or implied by OFAC in connection with this matter…

In spite of SCB’s earlier admissions to SFS.

Again, SCB has already admitted to some of this fraud. But Treasury has gone out of its way to not only not require an admission, but to retroactively label hundreds of billions of dollars in fraudulent transactions kosher.

It’s really time to start asking why that is.

OCC Circles Back to JP Morgan’s Money Laundering

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.

Continue reading

Why Is the Superintendent of Financial Services Policing our Iran Sanctions?

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.”

[snip]

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.

ING:

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.

SCB:

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

JPM and ING: Some Trading with the Enemy Is More Equal than Other Trading with the Enemy

ING just signed a $619M settlement with Treasury for sanctions violations, largely with Cuba, but also with Iran, Burma, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Aside from the fact that that’s the biggest sanctions settlement ever, I’m interested in it because of just how different Treasury’s publication of ING’s settlement looks from JPMC’s $88.3M settlement last August.

The difference largely comes down to one big detail: Treasury didn’t release the actual settlement with JPMC, but did with ING. Rather than the JPMC settlement, Treasury released just a PDF version of the public announcement on a blank sheet of paper (compare smaller civil penalties, for example, where they release just a link and a PDF of the details, link and PDF). With ING, the settlement appears in full, on letterhead, with the signatures of ING’s General Counsel and Vice Chair at the bottom, not far below the terms of the settlement. And the settlement reads like an indictment, with a 6 pages of factual statements. Indeed, ING signed Deferred Prosecution Agreements with both the NY DA and DC US Attorneys Offices.

And the information included in the settlement is quite interesting. Most interestingly, the settlement describes how ING manipulated SWIFT reporting to hide its transfers with restricted countries.

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.

Continue reading

How to Indefinitely Detain Jamie Dimon

Kagro X and I were engaging in a little thought experiment on Twitter to show how easy it would be to solve our dangerous bankster problem by indefinitely detaining them.

It turned out to be pretty easy to do. Here’s how.

First, before you indefinitely detain a bankster, you need to show either that he is,

A person who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or who has supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

Or, you need to show he has supported (using the Iraq AUMF that we’re keeping around to make sure the President’s authority isn’t limited to just al Qaeda),

another international terrorist group that the President has determined both (a) is in armed conflict with the United States and (b) poses a threat of hostile actions within the United States;

Now, making that case with Jamie Dimon is very easy to do, because his company, JP Morgan Chase, has materially helped Iran. We have several pieces of proof it has done so. First, there’s the Treasury Report showing that JPMC:

  • Gave a $2.9 million loan on December 22, 2009 to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which the Office of Foreign Assets Control has found to be involved in WMD proliferation
  • Advised and confirmed a $2,707,432 letter of credit on April 24, 2009, in which the underlying transaction involved a vessel identified by OFAC as blocked due to its affiliation with the same Iranian shipping line
  • Processed nine wire transfers between April 27, 2006 and November 28, 2008, which totaled $609,308, some of which involved sanctioned Iranian and terrorist entities
  • Transferred 32,000 ounces of gold bullion valued at approximately $20,560,000 to benefit a sanctioned Iranian bank on May 24, 2006

We need no further proof that JPMC has done these things. Not only has JPMC admitted to them, but as Janice Rogers Brown has made clear, we cannot question the Executive Branch’s intelligence reports, so all of OFAC’s claims must be accepted as true for the purposes of indefinite detention. And all of that illegal support for Iran happened while Jamie Dimon was President of JPMC.

But there may even be proof–enough, anyway, to satisfy Rogers Brown–that JPMC materially supported an attempt to deploy a WMD in a terrorist attack on American soil. As I have shown, the bank account to which Manssor Arbabsiar transferred almost $100,000 as downpayment for the alleged Quds Force plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir was probably a Chase account. And that affidavit should be enough. The FBI, after all, is an intelligence agency. And Janice Rogers Brown does not find redactions–even much more extensive ones–to in any way impair the reliability of Administration claims to justify indefinite detention.

In other words, the Administration has provided sufficient proof that JPMC materially supported Iran to the tune of at least $23 million in illegal financial transactions.

Now, if Chase is indeed the bank that accepted the downpayment for the Scary Iran Plot, we need no further basis to indefinitely detain Jamie Dimon. After all, the government’s Amended Complaint (from the FBI, an intelligence agency whose reports we cannot question) asserts that Abdul Reza Shahlai was the mastermind behind the Scary Iran Plot, and at the time of the plot, he had already been sanctioned as a supporter of the insurgency in Iraq. That was based on a questionable intelligence report, admittedly, but Janice Rogers Brown says we cannot consider such problems. So if Chase did, indeed, play a role in the Scary Iran Plot, then that’s all we need to indefinitely detain Jamie Dimon as head of the entity that materially supported that terrorist attack.

But even if Chase wasn’t involved in the Scary Iran Plot, the Executive Branch can still indefinitely detain Jamie Dimon. After all, the Executive Branch has been claiming that Iran was harboring al Qaeda since 2003. In addition, an official Executive Branch report–a September 12, 2009 diplomatic cable–includes the following hearsay claim, made by Saudi Arabia’s then Minister of the Interior, now the Crown Prince, Nayif bin Abdulaziz:

Iran has hosted Saudis (all Sunnis) — including Osama bin Laden’s son Ibrahim — who had contacts with terrorists and worked against [Saudi Arabia]

And Janice Rogers Brown has said that so long as it appears in an official government document, any hearsay problem is overcome. And as recent reporting makes clear, there’s even some evidence that Iran was at least aware of, and in some ways facilitated, the 9/11 plot itself. That assertion is based on NSA reports which, as official government documents, would meet Rogers Brown’s standard for claims supporting indefinite detention.

All of which would seem to reach the bar of making Iran a force associated with al Qaeda. I don’t necessarily buy these reports, mind you, but again, it’s not for me to question these official government records. And helping such an associated force access $23 million of funding sure seems to qualify as “substantial support.”

Now let me be clear. I don’t advocate indefinitely detaining Jamie Dimon–or anyone else either, particularly not American citizens, no matter how loathsome or dangerous to the United States. But given that our country maintains it is more important to “incapacitate” terrorists and those who support them than to punish those who did trillions of dollars of damage to our economy, we may well have to treat Jamie Dimon as a material supporter of terrorism to get some justice.

And Jamie? If I were you I would report to an Embassy or some other official government office right away, as the government claims Anwar al-Awlaki should have. Because while Obama seems uninterested in indefinitely detaining American citizens, he has been known to kill those he claimed were particularly dangerous.

Is the Government Hiding Chase’s Cooperation in the Scary Iran Plot?

As I noted in this post, earlier this month, the government unsealed the redacted first complaint in the Scary Iran Plot. I will do a post summarizing the differences between the original and amended complaint later (short version: in a number of ways seeing both complaints weakens their case slightly against Quds Force).

But in this post, I want to suggest–and this is speculation–that the secrecy about the complaint may serve, in part, to protect JP Morgan Chase.

Continue reading

Jamie Dimon’s Company Fined $88.3 Million for Trading with the Enemy

That’s not the technical term for violating economic sanctions against Cuba, Sudan, Iran, and Liberia (and FWIW I think the sanctions against Cuba are stupid).

Nevertheless, that’s basically what the sanctions JP Morgan Chase just admitted to violating amount to.

The big dollar amounts involve $178.5 million in wire transfers with Cubans.

JPMC processed 1,711 wire transfers totaling approximately $178.5 million between December 12, 2005, and March 31, 2006, involving Cuban persons in apparent violation of the CACR.

But the more interesting violation came when JPMC refused to turn over some documents relating to Khartoum until the government told the bank they knew JPMC had the documents.

The apparent violation of the RPPR occurred between November 8, 2010, and March 1, 2011. On October 13, 2010, OFAC issued JPMC an administrative subpoena pursuant to section 501.602 of the RPPR directing JPMC to provide certain specified documents related to a specific wire transfer referencing “Khartoum.” In response to this subpoena and a subsequent communication, JPMC compliance management failed to produce several responsive documents in JPMC’s possession, and repeatedly stated that JPMC had no additional responsive documents. OFAC ultimately provided JPMC with a list of multiple responsive documents that OFAC had reason to believe were in JPMC’s possession based on communications with a third-party financial institution. This prompted JPMC to correct its prior statements that the bank possessed no additional responsive documents and to produce more than 20 responsive documents. JPMC did not voluntarily self-disclose the apparent violation of the RPPR to OFAC. The base penalty for this apparent violation was $250,000.

And in spite of that apparent obstruction, TurboTax Timmeh Geithner’s agency still treated Jamie Dimon’s disloyal company leniently because of what they called JPMC’s “substantial cooperation.”

OFAC mitigated the total potential penalty based on JPMC’s substantial cooperation,

According to Bloomberg’s count, the Fed lent this disloyal company $68.6B after banksters like Jamie Dimon crashed the economy.

During and after the period JPMC took that money, it financed trade with Iran, tried to hide the Khartoum deal, and financed more trade with Sudan (though it sent money to Cuba and sent Iran 32,000 ounces of gold, now worth $55 million, before taking our money, in 2006). Some of this trading with the enemy was reported internally to “JPMC management and supervisory personnel;” at least some of this wasn’t the work of rogue employees.

This is the kind of MOTU that Obama considers an ally.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @p2wy Can you pick a piece of art for me? Keep meaning to go in, but usu walk by with the pup. @PalatteCoffee
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bmaz @kennwhite Thank you! I had read some on it, but nothing that had the active link. So, I opted out. No change yet, but I will check it later
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emptywheel @Krhawkins5 Also suspect he secretly knew abt Stellar Wind when presiding over In Re Sealed. Sadly for Addington, Olson did not. @froomkin
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emptywheel RT @froomkin: Silberman says he will take to his grave some of the dirt (on still living people) he saw in J. Edgar Hoover’s secret files #…
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emptywheel EO 12333, under which NSA conducts most of its spying? OLC ruled that "“An executive order cannot limit a President." http://t.co/Y6LHNv2mIX
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emptywheel Another thing missing from the EO12333 discussion: How George Bush pixie dusted the order, without telling anyone. http://t.co/Y6LHNv2mIX
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emptywheel @Eclectablog Just till Saturday. It's a Halloween costume.
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emptywheel RT @Eclectablog: Republican Mike Bishop, candidate in MI-08, has had a VERY bad couple of weeks http://t.co/0YL9dElpMv
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emptywheel <<<< turning blue holding my breath tho I was wondering what @csoghoian was having so much fun working on. @NateWessler @onekade
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emptywheel @onekade If only some NGO can sic someone like @NateWessler on that issue.
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emptywheel @matthewstoller Don't you say that or Chiquita's big GOP donors will take their bananas and defect to Brazi--oh wait. Too late.
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emptywheel DOJ IG knows how to keep GOP in his camp, releases new report showing ATF/AZ USA failures on investigation. http://t.co/AuaDNi9jHM
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