Democratic Senators tell FinCEN director that Deutsche Bank's treatment of Trump should be probed

21 May 2019 00:00

Accusations that Deutsche Bank did not file suspicious activity reports on certain transactions by Donald Trump and Jared Kushner should be investigated by the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Democratic senators today told FinCEN's director, Kenneth Blanco.

Blanco said that he would not comment publicly on any investigation or even acknowledge whether one existed.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an article quoting a former Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist who said that she flagged a number of transactions that Trump and Kushner made to senior bank officials, but that the senior officials did not file "Suspicious Activity Reports" to the FinCEN.

Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, said compliance officials have described a pattern at Deutsche Bank of not filing SARs on "lucrative clients." Brown also said that some federal regulators "tend to cover for Deutsche Bank."

"We need to get to the bottom of what happened here," Brown said. "You don't get an exemption if you have a rich and powerful client. We have to hold financial institutions accountable if they break the rules."

Brown asked Blanco whether FinCEN would be investigating the allegations about suspicious transactions by Trump, his business and his son-in-law.

Blanco said that FinCEN rules prohibit him from commenting on ongoing or potential investigations, and added that doing so would be unfair to the individual and to the institution.

"All I can tell you is that the information is out there and we will look at the information if it is appropriate," Blanco said.

Brown asked Blanco how FinCEN approached the investigation of banks with politically exposed persons.

Blanco said FinCEN made investigations on a case-by-case basis. "It could very well be that the bank felt comfortable with the information they were receiving, that they knew why [the customers] were doing it and that they felt comfortable taking that risk," he said.

Blanco said he had been briefed on the New York Times article and had seen other reporting summarizing it, but had not read it himself.

Senator Christopher Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said that Deutsche Bank had a history of violating money-laundering laws and that in 2017 reached a settlement with the Federal Reserve Board to resolve anti-money-laundering violations.

Van Hollen also said that he had communicated with Deutsche Bank about its relationship with Trump and Kushner, and the bank said it was aware of the sensitivity of a serving a politically exposed customer such as Trump and that it would obey anti-money laundering laws. Van Hollen has called for Congressional hearings on the topic of the Trump-Deutsche Bank relationship.

Van Hollen said that the Deutsche Bank whistleblower had brought forth very specific allegations that deserved investigation. "In my view if FinCEN has not already been in contact with that whistleblower, that's gross negligence," Van Hollen told Blanco.

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