On the surface, sanctions on individuals seem easy. Your bank is given a list, your bank looks through information about clients and stops all business with those who are on the list.
Hahaha, yeah, right. Then there are their related parties, some of whom you need to sanction as well because they can be intermediaries. Others you need to monitor because they are legitimate businesses but the individual has access to making transactions. Oh, and there are subsidiaries and parent companies of the monitored company. And then there are possible new agents for the individual, like an assistant. Then there are all of the accounts that have in some form or another put money into or taken money out of all of the related accounts. And then there are your bank’s vendors and suppliers, who all need to comb through their accounts so that they don’t do transaction through your bank. Correspondent account for foreign banks will also need to clamp down on transactions of suspiciously-related accounts. And then there are new accounts being created by any number of parties who might be providing transaction services for the sanctioned individual. And then there are those accounts that come from jurisdictions that do not enforce sanctions from other jurisdictions, from markets that do not allow reporting on account information, from banks with no physical presence…
You get the idea. The web of research required to identify all of the entities that require a decision on grows rapidly. Imagine doing this for a nation. To make this easier, Thomson Reuters has created a Russian Sanctions Tracking Service. This is supposed to help identify all related parties. Reuters is leveraging its own massage database.
This is good but no compliance department should rely on this. There is no way such information could be updated quickly. Hours, even minutes, matter. In today’s world where an account could be setup remotely online, an account could be created and start making transactions through it, completing all of the necessary transactions for the sanctioned individual before an update of the list is published.
Sanctions programs should have to work closely with the bank’s Fraud Investigation Units and Suspicious Activity Reporting groups to stay on top of the ever changing sanctions environment.
About the Author: Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses. He is the author of the forthcoming book Money Laundering: How criminals got paid and got away.