I’m not a great fan of many of our current politicians – I’m sure you know why. But I do like Angela Merkel, and in particular Tracy Ullman’s version of Angela Merkel. And I have recently come to admire Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator representing Massachusetts. She recently called Mr Trump a racist bully, but that’s not why I like her: it’s because she’s tough on money laundering.
Ms Warren made headlines when HSBC was hauled over the coals in the US in 2013, quizzing officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about why the bank wasn’t stripped of its licence and prosecuted for money laundering. When the Justice Department said that HSBC was too big to fail, she was outraged: “How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?” I’m not making the case for or against the punishment of HSBC – I don’t know nearly enough about the facts to do that – but I do like the fact that a politician is willing to ask the questions that the general public must be asking: if individuals can be sent to prison for laundering a few thousand pounds of drug money, why can’t institutions be shut down for laundering billions?
And now she’s at it again. On 19 January 2018 Ms Warren attended a meeting of the Senate Banking Committee which was discussing, among other topics, the collection of beneficial ownership information, the use of artificial intelligence to spot dodgy money, and the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies and banks. It is worth remembering that the American AML system is based largely on the requirements stated in the Bank Secrecy Act, which was passed in 1970. Just to remind you how long ago that was, here’s what I looked like in 1970:
Both money laundering and I have aged and become much more wily since then. And, as Ms Warren put it: “It seems to me we need to re-think a lot of our money laundering laws, some of which were written back in the 1970s and are badly out of date. That makes it hard for law enforcement trying to stop money laundering and bad for financial institutions trying to comply with these laws.” So she’s anti-Trump and pro-AML – that’s my kind of politician.