Financial regulators believe Norway’s largest bank, DNB, has long been aware of serious deficiences in how it follows money-laundering laws. Norway’s state finance authority Finanstilsynet thus slapped DNB with a NOK 400 million fine on Monday, which the bank’s management has accepted.
“We take the criticism in the (regulators’) report extremely seriously,” stated DNB’s chief executive Kjerstin Braathen in a written reaction to the fine, equivalent to around USD 50 million. She claimed that fighting white-collar crime and money laundering “is one of our most important” jobs, and that it had “high priority” among DNB’s board members and the entire banking concern.
That didn’t prevent the bank from being involved, however, in a series of questionable dealings in recent years, not least the so-called Samherji corruption case in which lots of money flowed through accounts at DNB. The regulators claimed after their own investigation that there were many reasons to believe that the Samherji case “was not unique” and that there can be more DNB customers or transactions in violation of money laundering laws.
Violations most often involve efforts to get illegally earned money (for example from narcotics, corruption, extortion or weapon smuggling) into the legitimate banking system, or efforts to finance terror. Banks all over the world are now under strict demands to “follow the money” and make sure they know who’s behind which accounts. Norwegian regulators believe DNB knew where they were deficient, but failed to pursue suspicious cases.
The fine is the latest blemish on DNB’s reputation and comes just after weeks of noisy criticism from customers of the small competing Sbanken that DNB is keen to take over. Thousands of Sbanken’s customers view DNB as expensive, arrogant and far too dominant in the market, and they refuse to become DNB customers.