15 Jul 2020
Jeffrey Epstein, the sex criminal and financier, didn’t act alone. Now we know in vivid detail who some of his financial enablers were: executives and bankers at Deutsche Bank.
Last week the New York Department of Financial Services laid bare at least some of the financial underpinnings of Mr. Epstein’s sophisticated enterprise. Deutsche Bank agreed to pay a $150 million fine for its dealings with Mr. Epstein, who committed suicide last August, and for two other matters.
Mr. Epstein’s bankers “created the very real risk” that payments through the bank “could be used to further or cover up criminal activity and perhaps even to endanger more young women,” the department asserted.
Deutsche Bank executives approved Mr. Epstein as a client in 2013 and then kept working with him, even though employees worried about the fact that “40 underage girls had come forward with testimony of Epstein sexually assaulting them,” as the bank put it in internal communications about Mr. Epstein in early 2015.
And even though such high-risk clients are required to be carefully monitored to detect and prevent illegal activity, once Mr. Epstein was a client, “very few problematic transactions were ever questioned, and even when they were, they were usually cleared without satisfactory explanation,” the New York regulator concluded.
Deutsche Bank itself is a corporation, and, as has often been said, it’s people, not corporations, who do bad things. Responsibility for working with Mr. Epstein permeated the ranks of the private-banking division that caters to wealthy clients.
Yet Deutsche Bank declined to publicly identify any individuals involved — and the authorities didn’t demand it. The so-called consent order with the New York agency included no names of the bankers or executives who were implicated; instead, the document is littered with references like RELATIONSHIP MANAGER-1 and EXECUTIVE-2. A bank spokesman, Daniel Hunter, said the bank meted out appropriate punishments to employees who were still at the bank, but declined to name anyone.
Based on descriptions of the employees in the consent order and interviews with current and former Deutsche Bank officials, The New York Times was able to identify nearly every person anonymously described in the order. At least one high-ranking executive remains in her position: Jan Ford, the bank’s head of compliance in the Americas.
It is rare for companies and regulators that are settling allegations of crimes or other misconduct to name the individuals responsible for those misdeeds — a practice that perpetuates the myth that such acts were inadvertently committed by a faceless institution and were not the consequence of decisions made by human beings.
Large companies “will happily pay a big fine as long as senior managers are protected,” said John Coffee Jr., a Columbia Law School professor and author of the forthcoming book “Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement.”
Fines paid by public companies, even of the $150 million magnitude Deutsche Bank is paying, fall almost entirely on shareholders rather than the individuals responsible. When those individuals bear no discernible consequences, the result is an astonishing rate of recidivism, Mr. Coffee noted, despite repeated apologies and promises that bad behavior won’t happen again.
New York’s Department of Financial Services, not Deutsche Bank, wrote the consent order that omitted the executives’ and bankers’ names. “The New York State Department of Financial Services is the first and only financial regulator to take action against a financial institution in connection with Jeffrey Epstein,” said a spokeswoman for the agency, Sophia Kim. “The department’s consent order provides a wealth of detail about the course of conduct of the bank, consistent with D.F.S.’s role as the New York licensing agency for the institution itself.”
While the bank may not be legally obligated to name those responsible for the Epstein relationship, it should do so to rebuild public trust, said Brandon Garrett, a professor at Duke Law School and author of “Too Big to Jail.” “When a company does something seriously wrong, then accountability is all the more important,” Mr. Garrett said. “You want assurances they’re cleaning house. That’s especially true for Deutsche Bank, which has been around this block many times.”
Indeed, Deutsche Bank is a symbol of corporate recidivism: It has paid more than $9 billion in fines since 2008 related to a litany of alleged and admitted financial crimes and other transgressions, including manipulating interest rates, failing to prevent money laundering, evading sanctions on Iran and other countries and engaging in fraud in the run-up to the financial crisis.
Deutsche Bank claimed to have put all this behind it when it named Christian Sewing as chief executive in 2018. “We all have to help ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again. It is our duty and our social responsibility to ensure that our banking services are used only for legitimate purposes,” Mr. Sewing said last week in a message to employees.
Since neither the regulator nor the bank would reveal the people responsible for the misconduct, my colleagues and I decided to fill in some of the blanks left by the consent order. (Some of the bankers and executives confirmed their roles; none would comment on the record.)
By James B. Stewart, The New York Times, 13 July 2020
Read more at The New York Times
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