Last month, Twitter feeds across the world were littered with the latest in a long line of banking-related ‘scandals’; this time in the form of a set of leaked documents known as the FinCEN Files.
And while the aggressive article publication may have tapered off, I believe there’s still a meaningful conversation to be had about their revelations.
Let’s have a quick look at the FinCEN Files, shall we?
What is a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)?
And why are they important?
A SAR is a document that banks and financial institutions are obliged to file with regulatory bodies when they suspect that funds may be linked to financial crime.
A report itself isn’t considered as evidence of wrongdoing. Instead, it’s typically a loosely researched, scantily detailed document advising authorities that the bank has identified transactions with hallmark money laundering attributes or other untoward activity. Examples include large sums of rounded-up values, or transactions between entities that don’t have a clear economic, business or lawful purpose.
This is where the cracks start to show.
You see, once the banks have filed the report, they’re essentially given a ‘free pass’. They can continue processing the transactions (and earning massive profits as a result) until such a time as the authorities provide instruction otherwise.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the banks aren’t legally obligated to halt transactions or off-board clients, they most certainly hold power and authority to do so, should they wish.
And this is probably the most discomforting aspect of what they reveal…
We’re talking about banks here. Big banks. The institutions that are essentially the backbone of our economy. The custodians of our finances, and charged with the day-in and day-out fight against money laundering and financial crime.
And we’re talking about seriously dirty money. Money linked to terrorism, human trafficking, child exploitation, drug cartels, embezzlement, fraud and a host of other horrific crimes that lead to distressing human suffering at a grassroots level.
These aren’t small-fry financial institutions, and we’re not talking first-time offences either. Many, if not most, named in the FinCEN Files are giant, global banks. The likes of JPMorgan Chase, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and HSBC. The latter two, in particular, are no strangers to controversy when it comes to their involvement in dubious dealings.
Do these headlines ring any bells?
HSBC money laundering report: Key findings - BBC, December 2012
- Moving funds for known Mexican drug cartels
- Covering up transactions with sanctioned Iran
- Dealings with terrorist-linked Al Rajhi Bank
HSBC pays record $1.9bn fine to settle US money-laundering accusations - The Guardian, December 2012
Barclays embroiled in Libor scandal, attempting to manipulate rates: fined £290 million - BBC, June 2012
Barclays moved £1.88 billion for politically exposed clients in The Gulf and failed to practice due diligence - fined £72 million by FCA - FCA, November 2015
They’ve both escaped severe prosecution by paying hefty fines for their failure to act with greater due diligence and vowing to do better.
And yet, here we are. Being shown how these (and other) banks have once again not hindered, but helped the most atrociously greedy and quite frankly, sometimes downright evil people on the planet, to perpetrate heinous crimes against humanity.
A few of the key findings coming from the FinCEN File leak include:
Trillions of tainted dollars have been pushed through their channels, and even though they suspected links to crime, they continued to process - and profit massively - from these transactions.
It’s crystal clear that our distrust in banks is definitively warranted.
Gravity was borne from this distrust. This disillusion in the “powers-that-be” and the traditional financial structures. A truly inefficient and seriously broken system. One that we want to fix. Not only for us but for the future generations to come.
Gravity seeks to combine the two tools of humanity as we see them - the Internet and Bitcoin - to usher in a new paradigm in how financial institutions can operate.
By harnessing the power and scale of the Bitcoin SV network and its functionality as a global, public, digital ledger for transactions, Gravity will - in time - introduce transparency and real-time audibility. This means that any interested party will be able to independently verify our transactions, without us ever infringing on our customers’ privacy and revealing sensitive information. Another crucial aspect of this is that people will be able to see that we hold the reserves we say we do.
In the otherwise opaque world of finance, we’re determined to operate in a way that holds us to the highest levels of accountability. In doing so, we’ll be able to offer people an alternative to the incumbent traditional financial structure that has eroded their trust.
Because at the end of the day, we believe Bitcoin is a tool of and for humanity, and it’s our mission to play a pivotal role in the next evolution towards sovereignty.