Wells Fargo to Pay $7M to Settle SEC AML Allegations

Wells Fargo Advisors agreed to pay $7 million to settle federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that the firm failed to report at least 34 suspicious transactions that could have triggered anti-money laundering investigations, the agency announced Friday (May 20).

The violations occurred between April 2017 and October 2021, according to the SEC.

The SEC’s announcement of the charges and settlement states, in part: “Due to Wells Fargo Advisors’ deficient implementation and failure to test a new version of its internal anti-money laundering transaction monitoring and alert system adopted in January 2019, the system failed to reconcile the different country codes used to monitor foreign wire transfers.

“As a result, Wells Fargo Advisors did not timely file at least 25 SARs related to suspicious transactions in its customers’ brokerage accounts involving wire transfers to or from foreign countries that it determined to be at a high or moderate risk for money laundering, terrorist financing, or other illegal money movements.”

The SEC also found that Wells Fargo botched another nine reports on suspicious transfers because of data-entry problems.

“When SEC registrants like Wells Fargo Advisors fail to comply with their (anti-money laundering) obligations, they put the investing public at risk because they deprive regulators of timely information about possible money laundering, terrorist financing, or other illegal money movements,” Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said.

“Through this enforcement action, we are not only holding Wells Fargo Advisors accountable, but also sending a loud and clear message to other registrants that (anti-money laundering) obligations are sacrosanct,” Grewal added.

The SEC charges that led to the penalty were filed as an administrative proceeding. The agency stated in that document that of 160 countries the federal government calls “moderate or high risk,” the Wells Fargo system could not properly flag transactions involving “at least 58.”

Wells Fargo has had a history of violations such as those announced Friday (May 20). In November 2017, the SEC settled allegations that the firm had failed to file “at least 50” required suspicious activity reports, the SEC stated.

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