WASHINGTON – Industry regulators have fined Raymond James $17 million, accusing the financial services firm of widespread failures in its controls against money laundering.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Wednesday it was the biggest fine it has imposed related to deficiencies in anti-money laundering programs. FINRA said that Raymond James failed over several years to detect suspicious activity in client investment accounts and to report it to government authorities.
The brokerage industry’s self-policing organization said the firm’s failure was especially serious because it already had been censured and fined $400,000 in March 2012 for the same problems.
Raymond James Financial Inc., based in St. Petersburg, Florida, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.
In addition, the firm’s former compliance officer for anti-money laundering programs, Linda Busby, was fined $25,000 and suspended for three months. She also did not admit or deny wrongdoing.
U.S. federal and other regulators have focused closely in recent years on money laundering, with billions of dollars in proceeds from drug trafficking, prostitution and other crimes being cycled through the financial system to obscure their origins. Several major banks based in Europe have paid large fines to settle money-laundering charges, and some U.S. brokerage firms also have been sanctioned.
In the new case, FINRA said the brokerage subsidiary Raymond James & Associates Inc. and the investment affiliate Raymond James Financial Services Inc. grew rapidly from 2006 to 2014 — but without providing adequate compliance systems and procedures to prevent money laundering to match the size of the businesses. As a result, the firm allowed “red flags” of possibly suspicious activity to be missed or not adequately investigated from 2002 through February 2013, the regulators said. The specific oversight failures cited by FINRA were said to have occurred from 2011 to 2014.
The firm failed to make the required examinations of accounts held by foreign financial institutions, and to establish and maintain an adequate customer identification program, FINRA said.
Raymond James said Wednesday it has begun to wind down its business with some foreign institutions. The firm has made substantial improvements to its money-laundering control program, including increasing the number of staff in that area and hiring a new, highly experienced chief officer for it, spokesman Steve Hollister said in a statement.
“We will continue to refine our program to address evolving regulatory expectations and ensure we are doing our part to reduce criminality in the financial system,” Hollister said.