Welcome to This Week In Compliance: GAN’s weekly news roundup, where we curate the latest stories on compliance and anti-corruption to keep you informed. This week we cover Swedbank’s fine over money laundering concerns and several COVID-19 related updates on compliance. Keep reading for this breaking story and find more news below:
Swedbank Fined USD 397 Million Over Anti-Money Laundering Measures:
Swedish financial watchdog Finansinspektionen announced a USD 387 million fine on Swedbank AB related to money-laundering concerns in the bank's Baltic branches. The authority's investigation found that Swedbank failed to implement the appropriate anti-money laundering measures even after having received several warnings about risks associated with their operations in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It was also found that the bank withheld information that underlined the perceived risks associated with their Baltic operations. Estonia's Public Prosecutor's Office is also investigating whether other offenses took place in the bank. The latest fine comes after Swedbank notified U.S. authorities of U.S. sanctions violations that came to light in an internal probe last week.
DOJ & FTC Release COVID-19 Antitrust Guidance:
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission jointly released guidance this week acknowledging that “unprecedented cooperation between federal, state, and local government and among private businesses” will be necessary to address the COVId-19 pandemic. In order to encourage competition, the agencies aim to make it clear with their guidance that firms can engage in pre-competitive collaboration without violating antitrust laws. The agencies said they aim to respond expeditiously to all COVID-19 related requests, in contrast to the DOJ’s Business review Process and the FTC’s Advisory Opinion Process which can normally take several months.
AirAsia CEO Cleared In Airbus Corruption Probe:
Tony Fernandes, who had stepped aside from his position as CEO of AirAsia amidst a corruption investigation, has returned to his position after being cleared by an independent probe. Fernandes was facing allegations of being involved in receiving bribes for Airbus contracts after AirAsia's name was released in the U.K. SFO's corruption probe into Airbus. Independent reviewer BDO Governance Advisory found that AirAsia had carried out an appropriate procurement process and concluded that the purchase of Airbus airplanes was made at a justifiable cost. AirAsia's board accepted the results of the independent reviewer and voted in favor of reinstating Fernandes' and executive chairman Kamarudin Meranun's positions.
US Files First Enforcement Act Against COVID-19 Fraud:
A federal court in Texas issued the first U.S. judicial action against COVID-19 related fraudsters after an individual was found to sell fake coronavirus vaccine kits online. The website alleged to deliver a WHO-approved medical testing kit for the disease. The fraudsters were allegedly stealing credit card details and the personal identities of consumers.
Coronavirus Prompts Swedish Regulator to Delay Decision on SEB Probe:
Swedish Financial supervisory authority, Finansinspektionen, said on Wednesday that it was delaying the conclusion of the SEB AB's (Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken) money-laundering investigation until June due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Swedish FSA stated that its priorities have changed due to the crisis as it is now focusing on responding to the economic consequences of the pandemic. The FSA began its probe into SEB last year and was considering issuing fines related to the bank's AML measures in their Baltic operations.
33 Attorneys General Warn Big Online Retailers Against Price Gouging:
In a letter sent to big retailers Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Facebook, and Craiglist this week, 33 Attorneys General say these firms have so far ‘failed to remove unconscionably priced critical supplies.’ The letter calls on the companies to draft policies that look at historical prices and when surges are detected respond to them appropriately and proactively. The attorneys general further said that shoppers must be able to report pricing complaints. The group of attorneys general stated they “believe you have an ethical obligation and duty to help your fellow citizens in this time of need by doing everything in your power to stop price gouging in real-time.”
U.S. Task Force to Tackle Coronavirus Market Manipulation, Hoarding:
U.S. authorities announced the creation of a federal task force to address market manipulation, hoarding and price gouging following executive orders. The task force, which will be headed by Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, surged after enforcement agencies received reports on fraud and threats of violence on healthcare staff related to the crisis. The creation of the task force also comes after the head of America's National Whistleblower Center issued an open letter to the U.S. Attorney General Wiliam Barr urging him to set up a new unit dedicated to monitoring and investigating potential violations of the False Claims Act amid the Coronavirus outbreak. Other federal law enforcement agencies have been ordered to prioritize investigations centered around coronavirus-related crimes.
U.K. Watchdog To Create New Task Force Monitoring Corporate Behavior:
The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority warned firms in the food and pharma industries to not exploit customers amid the pandemic and announced it has plans of establishing a workgroup destined to monitor corporate behavior. The announcement comes after the authority received several reports on unjust pricing on essential items such as face masks and hand sanitizer. While the U.K. has seen a surge in supermarket shopping which could be a cause of the price jumps, the watchdog urged retailers to report suspicious activity against unjustified price inflation. The watchdog also announced plans to ask the U.K. government to pass emergency legislation in case the existing legal instruments are not thorough enough to address fraudulent actions.
Ukraine Zelensky Chief Embroiled in Criminal Probe:
The deputy chief of staff of Ukrainian president Zelensky's cabinet, Andriy Smyrnov, is being investigated by Ukrainian authorities over corruption allegations. Smyrnov is being accused of being complicit in the escape of a judge who accepted a bribe worth USD 150,000 but managed to flee to Moldova before being arrested in 2016. The allegations stem from a leaked document that named Smyrnov as one of the people that helped the judge escape. Smyrnov has denied all allegations.