Magazine article American Banker

US May Prosecute Cash Violations despite Civil Fines

Magazine article American Banker

US May Prosecute Cash Violations despite Civil Fines

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS -- Banks that negotiate fines with the Department of Treasury for violations of currency reporting laws may still find themselves the targets of criminal investigations, a serinor Justice Department officer said.

Banks that have already negotiated fines "have already been referred to the U.S. Attorney," said Charles S. Saphos, chief of Justice's narcotics and dangerous drug section, speaking on a panel here on Monday on the enforcement of the nation's currency reporting laws.

Mr. Saphos said, however, that while criminal prosecution remained a possibility in some cases, the decision to seek civil penalties rather than criminal indictments was "a unified decision [between agencies], made in Washington," suggesting that criminal charges were unlikely in most cases.

Also, he said, the nature of the agreements negotiated with Treasury could effectively foreclose prosecution.

"The assistant secretary of Treasury for enforcement signed it, and if he said in the agreements that they would not be prosecuted, it would be difficult," Mr. Saphos said.

In its most recent announcement of civil penalties against Crocker National Bank, San Francisco, Treasury declined to offer any substantive comment about the negotiated fine or its investigation that preceded it.

Mr. Saphos said that in order to bring criminal charges against a bank, it would be necessary to show that bank officers had willfully disregarded the law. To bring civil charges, he said, it is necessary only to show that the laws had been "recklessly disregarded. …

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