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BofA Fined $16.6M for Violating Drug-Trafficking Sanctions

Zacks Equity Research

Endless legal issues and penalties associated with improper business conducts, continue to haunt Bank of America Corporation (BAC). BofA, in order to resolve the allegations of violating U.S. sanctions against drug-trafficking, will be paying a $16.6 million fine.

Per the U.S. Treasury Department, BofA processed nearly 208 transactions for 6 individuals who have been identified as narcotics traffickers. In aggregate, transactions worth approximately $91,192 million were processed between Sep 2005 and Mar 2009.

Additionally, BofA failed to block 5 accounts owned by 10 other traffickers, thereby violating the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations. Further, the bank did not timely file blocked property reports on accounts held by four Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers.

Moreover, BofA, for more than two years, failed to fix the problem in its screening process. This, in turn, led to processing of additional 79 similar transactions.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the base penalty for all these violations should have been more than $83 million. However, BofA is paying a substantially smaller amount, considering its cooperation with the law-enforcement authorities and eventual amendment of the issue causing the lapses. The company also identified other accounts operated by it for sanctioned individuals.

BofA is not the only major global bank that has faced fines for sanction violations. Over the last few years, the U.S. subsidiaries of many global banks including those of HSBC Holdings plc (HSBC), ING Groep NV (ING), BNP Paribas SA and Barclays PLC (BCS) have been penalized for money-laundering or sanctions violations..

We believe that such stringent actions by law enforcement agencies will go a long way in restoring investors’ confidence. Though this would lead to a marginal rise in the legal expenses for BofA, the resolution will remove yet another headwind.

Currently, BofA carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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