Partner Claire Cross and Senior Associate Nick Barnard have written an article for Financial News discussing the conviction of NatWest, in which it was fined £264m after being prosecuted by the Financial Conduct Authority for breaches of the money laundering regulations.
“It is understandable for the FCA to wait for the ideal case, to ensure its first foray into a new arena was a success. However, the regulator is likely to find that, while the facts
have made excellent headlines, such cases will be rare.
NatWest represents a high watermark for prosecution under the regulations, with the underlying money laundering having been thoroughly investigated and successfully prosecuted elsewhere, and the institutional failings being so fundamental that the best-case scenario was a favourable plea agreement.
So perfect was the combination for NatWest that some have questioned whether other cases, which should properly have been the subject of criminal prosecution, have been overlooked by a regulator only prepared to countenance a ‘slam dunk’ for its first attempt.
While there may be immediate logic for the FCA to bide its time, in order to establish itself as a fearless and effective prosecutor, this comes at a price. The conviction of a major bank for abject failures to react to obvious red flags does little to assist most hard-pressed AML professionals striving to strike a balance between ensuring effective compliance and avoiding needless bureaucracy.”
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