Risk & Compliance

JPMorgan Avoids Fine in Malaysia Fund Scandal

A Swiss regulator finds the bank "seriously breached" anti-money laundering regulations but declines to impose financial sanctions.
Matthew HellerDecember 25, 2017

Switzerland’s financial regulator has concluded JPMorgan Chase’s Swiss unit violated anti-money laundering rules in transactions related to a Malaysian government investment fund, but the bank avoided any monetary sanctions.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has been the focus of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries including Singapore, Switzerland and the U.S. In the case of J.P. Morgan (Switzerland) Ltd., the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) investigated transactions handled by the bank between 2009 and 2011.

“The bank seriously breached anti-money laundering regulations by failing to screen adequately transactions and business relationships booked in Switzerland associated with the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and one of its business partners,” FINMA said Thursday in a news release.

The regulator said it will conduct an “in-depth review” of JPMorgan’s anti-money laundering systems but “In contrast to other proceedings relating to 1MDB, FINMA has decided not to initiate enforcement proceedings against any individuals based on the outcome of its investigation.”

“Additionally, no monetary penalties or business restrictions have been imposed on JPMorgan, which displayed good cooperation during the FINMA-led investigation,” it said.

Other banks implicated in the scandal have been hit with fines. Luxembourg watchdogs, for example, fined the local arm of Swiss bank Edmond de Rothschild $10.1 million, while FINMA ordered Coutts & Co. to pay back $6.57 million in unlawfully generated profits.

According to The Associated Press, FINMA’s decision not to fine JPMorgan may indicate that “any profits gained by the bank [from] the alleged breaches were not significant.”

FINMA pointed in particular to one instance in which JPMorgan allegedly credited “hundreds of millions” of dollars from the 1MDB fund, which were supposedly earmarked for the purchase of a company, to “the personal account of an individual with close ties to a 1MDB business partner.”

“It subsequently transferred a tranche of this money to the account of a company associated with that individual,” FINMA said. “In doing so, the bank questioned neither the economic purpose of the transactions, the procedure involved, nor the substantial amount that remained in the personal account.”