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Barclays fined $108 million for kowtowing to rich PEPs

The UK Financial Conduct Authority fined Barclays Bank £72 million ($108 million) Thursday for rushing to serve rich politically exposed persons and keeping their deal secret.

Barclays arranged a transaction worth $3 billion for ultra-high net worth clients in 2011 and 2012.

The bank ignored a number of red flags that should have triggered enhanced due diligence, the FCA said. Instead Barclays applied “a lower level of due diligence than its policies required for other business relationships of a lower risk profile.”

“Barclays did not follow its standard procedures,” the FCA said, “preferring instead to take on the clients as quickly as possible and thereby generated £52.3 million [$78.6 million] in revenue.”

The transaction for the rich PEPs involved investments in notes backed by underlying warrants and third party bonds. It was the largest deal of its kind that Barclays had executed for individuals.

The bank failed to minimize the risk that financial crimes would result from the transaction. But the FCA said no such crimes happened.

The bank kept the transaction secret, even internally. It promised to indemnify the customers up to £37.7 million ($56 million) if it breached the confidentiality restrictions.

The FCA said,

Few people knew of the existence and location of the firm’s due diligence records which were kept in hard copy and not on Barclays’ systems. This had a detrimental impact on how the Business Relationship was monitored by Barclays and also meant that Barclays could not respond promptly to the FCA’s request for this information.

Barclays’ total fine of £72 million ($108 million) was the biggest ever imposed by the FCA and its predecessor agency “for financial crime failings.” The bank disgorged £52.3 million ($78.6 million) and paid a penalty of £19.8 million ($30 million).

The FCA said it discounted the potential penalty of £80 million ($121 million) by 30 percent because Barclays cooperated and agreed to settle the investigation at an early stage.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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1 Comment

  1. Barclay's is not alone: Many large multinational banks put ordinary business customers through so-called "due diligence" that is ridiculous and often inapplicable to the transaction at hand (e.g., holding salary payments made to long time employees who have "Muslim" names) while providing PEPs with no-questions-asked concierge service.

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