Canada’s anti-money laundering watchdog is reviewing its policies after Manulife Financial Corp. revealed Monday its domestic banking unit was subject to an administrative penalty meted out by FINTRAC.
FINTRAC disclosed in April of last year that it had levied a $1.15 million penalty against a bank, but the director of Canada’s financial intelligence unit elected not to identify the bank.
“In making this decision, I took into consideration the fact that the violations were of a technical nature and I emphasize that the penalty has nothing to do with money laundering or the financing of terrorism,” Gérard Cossette, FINTRAC’s director said in a statement Monday.
“However, in exercising my discretion to withhold the name of the bank, I understand that it may not have met public expectations in relation to openness and transparency.”
Cossette said FINTRAC will now work with Finance Canada to review legislation related to its penalty program, and will review penalty policies to ensure they “strike an appropriate balance between the need for transparency and the requirements of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.”
Manulife issued a statement Monday acknowledging the administrative penalty after Manulife Bank was identified in a CBC report as the financial institution at the heart of the FINTRAC matter.
The penalty resulted from “administrative lapses in reporting” at Manulife Bank, according to the company’s statement.
“Manulife did not enable or facilitate money laundering,” the company said. The statement noted that one violation involved a customer whose activities had already been reported to law enforcement and FINTRAC by Manulife.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the administrative reporting violations were connected to any financial misconduct,” Manulife said, adding that the administrative reporting lapses were “remedied in the first half of 2014.”
Following a speech in downtown Toronto, Manulife chief executive Don Guloien told reporters the errors were the result of a single misinterpretation on Manulife’s part that led to continued administrative reporting violations.
“I think what happened in this case is there are two interpretations someone could take about the (FINTRAC) guidelines. We took an interpretation that was clearly wrong, or certainly not the one FINTRAC wanted us to hold, and it was repeated a number of times, which led to this large number,” he said. “But again these are strictly administrative errors. There’s no suggestion whatsoever of financial misconduct.”
At the time of FINTRAC’s initial disclosure, it was suggested that the size of the financial penalty was enough to encourage the bank that paid the penalty, and others, to take anti-money laundering seriously.
But some criticized the move, suggesting that by not identifying the bank, FINTRAC was casting doubt on the anti-money laundering efforts of all the banks subject to FINTRAC guidelines.
In making the initial decision not to disclose the name of the bank, Cossette said he took other factors into consideration, including “measures that the bank took to address its client’s activities,” such as reporting on previous transactions linked to the client’s account, and working with Canadian and American law enforcement authorities in relation to the client’s activities.