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December 18, 2018

UBS hit with $15 fine for AML lapses

UBS Financial Services has been fined $15m by US regulators for failures in its anti-money laundering controls.

Each of the regulators, namely the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), will receive $5m each from UBS as part of the settlement.

FinCEN accused UBS of failing to deploy an effective anti-money laundering (AML) programme to flag risks for accounts including traditional brokerage and banking-like services.

The firm allegedly failed to put in place a reasonable AML programme for foreign correspondent accounts between 2004 and 2017, FinCEN said.

The firm was also accused of having insufficient headcount, which in turn reduced timely flagging of suspicious activities.

FinCEN director Kenneth Blanco said: “Broker-dealers providing banking-like services must properly mitigate the AML risks associated with this kind of service.  These services enable the flow of funds through mechanisms such as wire transfers, check writing, and ATM withdrawals, creating AML risks that need to be properly addressed.”

According to the SEC, UBS did not adequately assess the risk aspects of non-resident alien brokerage accounts in a San Diego branch between January 2011 and March 2013.

Similarly, FINRA accused UBS of failing to monitor high-risk transactions in customer accounts, such as foreign currency wire transfers.

These transactions were said to be undetected for over eight years. However, the bank deployed controls only last year even after detecting the transactions in 2012, FINRA alleged.

At the same time, the watchdog accused UBS Securities of failing to have oversight of penny stock transactions.

UBS agreed to the settlement without admitting or refuting the allegations.

FINRA executive vice president of department of enforcement Susan Schroeder said: “When firms are part of global operations involving high-risk international securities trades and money movements, it is critical that they design and implement an AML program tailored for their business model.”

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