On January 21, 2021 the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) announced the results of a recent investigation into alleged anti-money laundering breaches by Julius Baer that focused primarily on allegations of corruption in Venezuela by four high-ranking managers at the bank. The investigation of the unnamed managers was launched in 2020 after FINMA found significant shortcomings in Julius Baer’s money-laundering program between 2009 and 2018, that resulted in the appointment of an independent auditor and other remedial measures aimed at improving the bank’s AML program. As a result of the investigation of managers, FINMA decided to launch one enforcement proceeding, decided against launching a proceeding after the person-of-interest agreed not to accept any future managerial positions with a supervised institution, and issued written reprimands for two individuals.
FINMA explained that it has the authority to ban individuals from senior roles for up to five years if they are found to be responsible for a serious breach of supervisory law, and can forego a ban altogether if the individual agrees leaves the industry for good. However, in order to issue an industry ban, FINMA must be able to prove that a person engaged in direct, individual and causal activity that is a serious violation of supervisory law. In the case of the two reprimanded managers, FINMA did not find a direct, causal connection to a serious violation of supervisory law despite mistakes that were made in their cases.
FINMA also opened enforcement proceedings to investigate possible money laundering violations by five unnamed banks, after contacting over 30 Swiss banks linked to allegations of corruption involving Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. FINMA reports that two proceedings remain unresolved. Additional information on recent FINMA proceedings related to Swiss banks and/or managers can be found here and here.
FINMA Press Release | FINMA Press Release (2020)