American Express Bank International Enters Into Deferred Prosecution Agreement and Forfeits $55 Million to Resolve Bank Secrecy Act Violations

Aug 06, 2007, 01:00 ET from U.S. Department of Justice

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Miami-based American
 Express Bank International has entered into a deferred prosecution
 agreement on charges of failing to maintain an effective anti-money
 laundering program and will forfeit $55 million to the U.S. government,
 Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and
 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Karen Tandy announced
     A criminal information filed today at the U.S. District Court for the
 Southern District of Florida in Miami charges American Express Bank
 International with one count of failing to maintain an effective anti-money
 laundering program. American Express Bank International waived indictment,
 agreed to the filing of the information, and accepted and acknowledged
 responsibility for its behavior in a factual statement accompanying the
 information. The company will pay $55 million to the United States to
 settle forfeiture claims held by the government. In light of the bank's
 remedial actions to date and its willingness to acknowledge responsibility
 for its actions, the government will recommend the dismissal of the charge
 in 12 months, provided the bank fully implements significant anti-money
 laundering measures required by the agreement.
     "Banks and other financial institutions must uphold their
 responsibility to safeguard financial markets from the illegal activities
 of international drug cartels and professional money launderers," said
 Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division. "An
 effective anti-money laundering program is critical to law enforcement
 efforts to detect and cut off the flow of drug money. The Department of
 Justice will continue to work to stop financial institutions from knowingly
 disregarding their obligations to have these vital programs in place."
     "Today an established and respected financial institution learned a
 valuable lesson about its legal responsibilities. American Express and all
 legitimate banking organizations must take every step possible to avoid
 becoming entangled in the web of international drug money laundering," said
 DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy. "Today the message is loud and clear: due
 diligence-don't take money without it."
     The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has also assessed a
 $25 million civil money penalty against the company for violations of the
 Bank Secrecy Act, and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has
 assessed a $20 million civil money penalty. The $20 million Federal Reserve
 penalty and $15 million of FinCEN's $25 million penalty will be deemed
 satisfied by the payment of the $55 million forfeiture, resulting in total
 payments of $65 million by American Express Bank International under these
     Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks are required to establish and
 maintain an anti-money laundering compliance program that, at a minimum,
 provides for: (a) internal policies, procedures and controls designed to
 guard against money laundering; (b) the coordination and monitoring of
 day-to-day compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act; (c) an ongoing employee
 training program; and (d) independent testing for compliance conducted by
 bank personnel or an outside party. Banks are also required to have
 comprehensive anti-money laundering programs that enable them to identify
 and report suspicious financial transactions to the U.S. Treasury
 Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
     The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys John W. Sellers and Thomas
 Pinder of the Criminal Division's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering
 Section, which is headed by Chief Richard Weber. This case was investigated
 by the Drug Enforcement Administration's Miami Field Division, Fort
 Lauderdale District Office.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice