Transparency International (TI) today said bank regulators need to publish much more information about whether banks are doing what’s required by law to stop money laundering. This would ensure that citizens and businesses can be confident corrupt individuals and organisations, criminals, or terrorists are not using the global banking system.
A new report from Transparency International shows that in countries hosting the world’s biggest banks, little data on anti-money laundering prevention and enforcement is published, or is if it is published it is out-of-date.
“Mistrust of banks will continue unless people know they are working on their behalf and not for the corrupt. Corruption and money laundering undermine the basic rule of law, weaken democratic institutions and damage economies and societies. It drives inequality and blocks efforts to stop poverty. We need to see that the people meant to stop corruption in the banking industry are doing their job,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
According to TI’s study, Top Secret: Countries keep financial crime fighting data to themselves, shows that data about authorities’ anti-money laundering efforts are only partially available across 12 countries, including Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the UK and the US. This includes data as basic as the number of times banks were sanctioned for money laundering failures in a given country, a number which is only public in four out of the 12 countries assessed – Australia, Cyprus, Italy and the US.
“There is no good reason to keep this data secret. Are they protecting us from the next financial crisis? We, the citizens, have the right to know if the financial sector is being permissive or complicit with illicit activity,” added Ugaz.
For instance, in 2013 alone, developing countries lost an estimated US$1.1 trillion to illicit financial flows – the illegal movement of money from one country to another. Effective anti-money laundering measures, in both developed and developing countries, are essential to end these illicit flows.
The public also needs evidence that action is being taken, not only to build trust in the institutions that hold our money, but also as a deterrent against crime by making sure bank examiners are effective.
Policing the financial sector requires strong, consistent and effective anti-money laundering supervision by authorities. Just like health and safety inspectors in restaurants, national financial supervisors have the power to visit and inspect banks (on-site monitoring), identify and record failings in their systems, and impose sanctions where necessary.
Citizens have a right to know the extent to which supervisors are applying this power in practice to uphold the law in the financial sector.
By increasing media and citizen oversight, making more data about these activities public would help to make anti-money laundering systems more effective.
Transparency International recommends that countries publish anti-money laundering oversight and enforcement statistics on a yearly basis, in a single report or data file. The requirement to publish yearly anti-money laundering data should become a standard recommendation of international bodies, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the G20.
Transparency on this important aspect of financial market enforcement is only a first, but vital, step on the long road to cleansing the global financial system of dirty money.