Wells Fargo Advisors fined $7 million by U.S. SEC for anti-money laundering lapses

By Michelle Price

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Securities and Exchange commission on Friday said Wells Fargo Advisors had agreed to pay $7 million to settle charges of anti-money laundering related violations.

The regulator said Wells Fargo Advisors failed to file at least 34 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) in a timely manner between April 2017 and October 2021.

“At Wells Fargo Advisors, we take regulatory responsibilities seriously,” bank spokeswoman Shea Leordeanu said in an emailed statement. “This matter refers to legacy issues that impacted a transaction monitoring system and the issues were resolved promptly upon discovery.”

The lapse arose because the broker failed to properly implement and test a new version of its internal anti-money laundering (AML) transaction monitoring and alert system adopted in January 2019, the SEC said. 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 it determined to be a risk for laundering, terrorist financing, or other illegal money movements.

“When SEC registrants like Wells Fargo Advisors fail to comply with their AML obligations, they put the investing public at risk,” said Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, adding that the SEC was sending a message to the rest of the industry that “AML obligations are sacrosanct.”

(Reporting by Michelle Price; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Chizu Nomiyiama and Mark Porter)

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