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Banks moved alleged dirty money despite red flags: Reports – Aljazeera.com

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Several global banks moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over a period of nearly two decades, despite red flags about the origins of the money, BuzzFeed and other media have reported, citing confidential documents submitted by banks to the United States government.

The series of news reports on Sunday was partly based on documents, called suspicious activity reports (SARs), filed by banks and other financial firms with the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The SARs, which the reports said numbered more than 2,100, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media organisations.

In all, the ICIJ reported that the files contained information about more than $2 trillion worth of transactions between 1999 and 2017, which were flagged by internal compliance departments of financial institutions as suspicious. The SARs are in themselves not necessarily proof of wrongdoing.

Five global banks appeared most often in the documents – HSBC, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon), the ICIJ reported.

A bank has a maximum of 60 days to file SARs after the date of the initial detection of a reportable transaction, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. 

Delay in reporting

The ICIJ report said that in some cases, the banks failed to report suspect transactions until years after they had processed them.

The SARs also showed that banks often moved funds for companies that were registered in offshore havens, such as the British Virgin Islands, and did not know the ultimate owner of the account, the report said.

Among the types of transactions highlighted by the report: funds processed by JPMorgan for potentially corrupt individuals and companies in Venezuela, Ukraine and Malaysia; money from a Ponzi scheme moving through HSBC; and money linked to a Ukrainian billionaire processed by Deutsche Bank.

In a statement to Reuters news agency, HSBC said “all of the information provided by the ICIJ is historical”.

The bank said that as of 2012, “HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime across more than 60 jurisdictions.”

Standard Chartered said in a statement to Reuters, “We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programmes.”

‘Kleptocracy tour’ highlights London money-laundering

BNY Mellon told Reuters it could not comment on specific SARs.

“We fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and assist authorities in the important work they do,” the bank said.

JPMorgan did not immediately respond to a request for comment but said in a statement to BuzzFeed that “thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars are devoted to helping support law enforcement and national security efforts”.

Deutsche Bank said in a statement on Sunday that to the “extent that information referenced by the ICIJ is derived from SARs, it should be noted that this is information that is pro-actively identified and submitted by banks to governments pursuant to the law.”

FinCEN said in a statement on its website on September 1 that it was aware that various media outlets intended to publish a series of articles based on unlawfully disclosed SARs, as well as other documents, and said that the “unauthorized disclosure of SARs is a crime that can impact the national security of the United States”.

Representatives for the US Treasury did not immediately respond to an email for comment on Sunday.

SOURCE:
Reuters news agency

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Air Transat lays off half remaining fight attendants, closes Vancouver base – CBC.ca

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The Canadian Union of Public Employees says 128 Air Transat flight attendants — more than half the current workforce of attendants — were notified last week that they will be temporarily laid off and that the airline’s Vancouver base will be closed as a stop-gap measure.

CUPE says last week’s layoffs leave only 117 flight attendants working for the month of November, down from 245 flight attendants working in October, 355 in August and 2,000 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christophe Hennebelle, Transat AT’s vice president of human resources and corporate affairs, says that while no flight attendants have been permanently let go, the company is processing “a number of temporary layoffs.”

Hennebelle says the company cannot confirm total numbers before everyone has been informed, but that 128 flight attendants were told of the change last week.

In total, the airline says it now has about 1,700 active employees, down from 5,100 before the pandemic.

The airline attributed the decision to a lack of improving prospects for the industry amid Canada’s border closures and a dearth of support programs for airlines.

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Bank of Canada sees lingering weakness in business sentiment – BNN

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Business sentiment in Canada improved over the summer but remains near historical lows as uncertainty around the path of the virus curbs demand and sales prospects, according to the Bank of Canada.

The results from the autumn Business Outlook Survey show businesses report conditions have improved as warmer weather and lower Covid-19 case counts encouraged consumers to go out and buy goods and services. However, businesses are still worried about future demand and sales prospects with some economic restrictions still in place.

“Firms reported their sales prospects are limited by weak demand and precautionary health guidelines, and that their investment and hiring plans remain Modest due to elevated uncertainty,” the central bank said in the survey, which took place between Aug. 24 and Sept. 16.

The tone of the survey is consistent with the Bank of Canada’s view that a full recovery will be long and difficult. The economy rebounded more quickly than expected in the summer as containment measures were lifted but the second phase of the recovery — known as the “recuperation” phase — will be uneven and protracted.

The composite gauge of sentiment rose to -2.2 in the third quarter, from a decade-low of -6.9 last quarter. While that’s a substantial improvement, the reading is still the second-lowest since 2016.

Although the survey was completed recently, economic conditions have changed as Covid-19 cases rapidly rose, particularly in the country’s two largest provinces. Ontario and Quebec reimposed containment measures on some businesses and activity in recent weeks in response to the second wave which will keep a lid on demand and hamper economic activity through the fall and winter.

More Highlights:

  • Recovery remains uneven across industries: One third of firms reported sales were mostly unaffected or positively affected by COVID‑19; a second third of firms indicated sales have already fully recovered or will recover within the next 12 months; final third either expect their sales won’t return for at least 12 months or are unsure when sales will fully rebound
  • Businesses that say sales won’t recover within a year typically linked to tourism and related industries where physical distancing is difficult
  • Meanwhile, businesses linked to real estate, infrastructure and natural resources have largely recovered or see themselves recovering within a year
  • Capacity constraints appear to be back to historical averages, but the central bank says most firms facing constraints see them as temporary or not broad-based
  • Despite the rebound in the capacity gauge, BOC concludes: “Results for capacity and labor pressures suggest that the economy continues to have excess capacity and labor slack, although these have narrowed since the summer survey”
  • Investment intentions improved from previous quarter, but remain weak — below historical averages
  • Employment intentions have also rebounded, though they remain slightly below historical averages. It’s an uneven trend. “Almost one-third of businesses — generally those that are dependent on tourism or facing weak demand — expect their workforce levels to remain lower than before the pandemic for at least the next 12 months or to never fully return”
  • Wage growth is expected to slow, the survey found
  • Firms expect input prices to grow at a slightly faster pace over the next 12 months, driven by increases in commodity prices, difficulty sourcing inputs, or higher operating costs due to health guidelines
  • Businesses have slightly higher inflation expectations, with 11 per cent of firms expecting inflation above 3 per cent

–With assistance from Erik Hertzberg.

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Oil Prices Fall As OPEC Discusses Demand Developments – OilPrice.com

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Oil Prices Fall As OPEC+ Discusses Demand Developments | OilPrice.com

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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    Oil prices were slightly down early on Monday as an OPEC+ panel is meeting virtually to discuss the latest supply and demand developments, while underwhelming economic data from China and stricter measures to fight COVID-19 in Europe weighed on oil market sentiment.

    As of 08:32 a.m. EDT on Monday, WTI Crude was down 0.20 percent at $40.78 and Brent Crude traded down 0.26 percent on the day at $42.81.

    Prices held relatively steady in the morning as investors await the outcome of the monthly meeting of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) at which several OPEC+ ministers are discussing the latest market developments amid speculation whether the group should proceed with easing the cuts as of January, considering that the second COVID-19 wave sweeping through Europe and threatening to derail economic and oil demand recovery. The JMMC panel is not expected to take any action, but comments during and after the meeting could swing oil prices in either direction.

    “Given the JMMC is made up of just a handful of OPEC+ members, we will likely have to wait for the full group meetings on the 30 November and 1 December for any concrete decision, though that does not mean that there won’t be plenty of noise around what OPEC+ might do,” ING strategists Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao said on Monday.

    Economic data out of China was not constructive for oil prices today, as economic growth in the third quarter—while accelerating from Q2—missed analyst expectations.

    “With prices stuck in the low $40’s and global coronavirus cases spiking again, the group – despite Russian wishes to increase production – needs to tread carefully. The potential for a U.S. relief package remains alive, but the impact, given rising coronavirus cases, may be limited. Brent is currently stuck in a $41.50/b to $43.50/b range,” John Hardy, Head of FX Strategy at Saxo Bank, said on Monday.

    By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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