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Waters, Maloney Bills Crack Down On Money Laundering

by Victoria Finkle, American Banker

WASHINGTON — Senior House Democrats introduced legislation Thursday designed to give regulators additional authority to go after bank executives at institutions involved in money laundering scandals.

The two bills, by Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., come on the heels of HSBC's landmark $1.9 billion settlement with regulators last December, over claims that the bank looked the other way as Mexican drug cartels used the bank to launder money and that it violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with customers in off-limits countries.

"The Justice Department and federal agencies have levied a number of record-breaking fines against these banks, but not a single individual has been held accountable," said Waters in a press release. "And yet thousands of men and women — many non-violent offenders who played no role in drug cartels — remain in prison today for drug offenses far less serious than the banks that allowed hundreds of millions in drug proceeds to flow through the U.S. economy."

Waters' bill, the Holding Individuals Accountable and Deterring Money Laundering Act, would bolster the government's ability to go after individuals for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, making bank executives personally liable for misconduct and giving regulators greater ability to ban those who violate the law from working in the industry. Maloney's legislation, Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, would help deter the use of shell corporations, often used by those involved in money laundering, drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

"My bill would require that the true ownership of a corporation be identified when papers are filed," said Maloney in the press release. "This will help stop criminal enterprises that are exploiting weaknesses in incorporation law to engage in money-laundering, drug trafficking, securities fraud and terrorist financing."

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