Wednesday, October 28, 2020

EBA claims it does not have the mandate to stop money laundering in Europe

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The head of the European Banking Authority (EBA) José Manuel Campa has warned that his mandate does not allow him to stop the rising tide of dirty money in Europe’s financial system.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Campa made clear that the €200 billion Danske Bank scandal reveals a broader network of money laundering, as the Danish lender merely played a “coordinating role” and responsibility is dispersed.

Campa does not believe the banking authority alone can face the challenge because it cannot call for a harmonising anti-money laundering legislation or regulation across the union. The EBA’s board of EU supervisors is under fire for shelving an investigation into the €200 billion Danske Bank scandal on 16 April.

A 45-page EBA-penned report alleges that the Danish and Estonian financial regulators breached EU law and made recommendations for remedial actions. The EBA’s board of supervisors rejected the internal draft report and voted to close the investigation and ignore the suggestions.

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Campa’s claim that Danske had a coordinating role does not appear controversial, since US and European regulators have already documented similar cases of collusion by German, Swedish, Finnish, and Latvian lenders who helped launder vast sums of money from Russia, Ukraine, and other post-Soviet countries.

“I think there is a strong record of the EBA coming forward with decisions that have been helpful in constructing the single market,” said Campa, who added the spirit of a letter by the EBA board claimed that national supervisors acknowledged their failings, but did not admit to violating any European laws.

As a result, Campa suggested that in the absence of a common rule book, the EBA did not have the mandate to call out a national authority as it could only “effectively and consistently supervise the risk of money-laundering.”

The EBA and its 195 staff are due to leave London for Paris, as a consequence of Brexit where French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due to open the new EBA headquarters.

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The bank authority’s new head, originally a senior Banco Santander executive, is now called to lead the banking system into a new environment of intense lender competition with FinTech firms and ensure that common money-laundering and stress standards are adhered to.

His mandate, however, may be getting off on the wrong foot.

Europe’s Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said in April that “the case of Danske Bank is not closed for us, regardless of the decision by the EBA.” She added that, “this will ensure that the case will not be swept under the carpet.”

The European Commission has already launched “infringement proceedings” against Denmark and Estonia for failing to adopt and implement EU anti-money laundering regulations. The EBA’s mandate is to check that national authorities enforce EU rules and carry out investigations, but the Danske Bank case casts doubt over the ability of the institution to carry out its duties.

In the days since the Commission announced that it would begin proceedings against the banking authorities in Denmark and Estonia, reports emerged that Russia’s Central Bank sent warnings in 2007 and 2013 to both Estonian and Danish financial supervisors suggesting that billion-dollar transactions were taking place at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.

The warnings were largely ignored.

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