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March 8, 2013

Lawmakers rip into regulators over money-laundering prosecution

Senate Democrats lit into Treasury and Federal Reserve officials Thursday over the handling of ­anti-money-laundering cases, questioning whether regulators are treating big banks accused of violating U.S. laws with kid gloves.

The heated debate unfolded even as bank regulators told lawmakers that they plan to step up efforts to remove bank employees and executives who don’t stop criminals and terrorists from moving money through the U.S. financial system — though so far that has been more common at small banks than large ones. Regulators can also issue civil money penalties or hit banks with enforcement orders when laws are broken.

Critics say such actions have not acted as a deterrent because megabanks can easily absorb hefty fines, with little or no reputational risk. Authorities, they say, need to hand down more criminal indictments and start treating bankers like any other citizens.

“If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, chances are good you’re going to go to jail,”Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during a Senate banking committee hearing Thursday. “Evidentially, if you laundered nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels . . .your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed.””

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Read full Washington Post article here

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