U.S. Money Laundering Fines Seen Rising in 2013 With Iran Focus

The number of U.S. penalties this year against financial firms laundering money will surpass those of 2012 as President Barack Obama’s sanctions against Iran target its currency, according to consultant BankersAccuity.

Following HSBC Holdings Plc’s record settlement with the U.S. and those of Standard Chartered Plc and ING Groep NV last year, the government will take a wider focus including smaller firms, said Henry Balani, managing director at BankersAccuity, whose services include anti-money laundering advice. Firms may pay smaller penalties this year, he said.

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces economic and trade sanctions, this year has already issued 11 penalties, all except two related to Iran sanctions, according to its website. That compares with a total of 16 last year. Obama on June 3 signed an executive order that would penalize foreign financial firms conducting transactions for the purchase or sale of the Iranian rial -- his ninth such order pressuring the country to halt its nuclear program.

“Regulators focused on high-profile banks last year,” Balani said in a telephone interview from London yesterday. “Now that the message has been sent, regulators will take a wider sweep.”

HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, on Dec. 11 agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle U.S. probes that it laundered funds of sanctioned nations including Iran. It was the largest such accord, topping the $619 million in penalties paid in June by the Netherlands’s ING. Standard Chartered agreed to pay $667 million to U.S. regulators after they alleged it violated sanctions against Iran, making a final settlement in December.

The Treasury’s trade sanction penalties this year total $1.3 million, compared with $1.1 billion last year, according to its website.

BankersAccuity, based in Skokie, Illinois, also provides data and software services. The company is a unit of Reed Business Information Ltd.

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