Crying Wolf on Money Laundering?
Banks and the media that covers them are crying wolf on money laundering cases, here’s why that could be bad
We’ve all heard the Aesop fable about the ‘boy who cried wolf,’ teaching us that false reporting will do more harm than good. I am reminded of this story daily in reading the all-to-frequent headlines on money laundering that land in my inbox. I’ve long felt that the media was, in many cases making unfounded accusations of money laundering in headlines covering financial fraud cases.
Upon further digging, I discovered a working paper from the IMF that determined ‘crying wolf,’ or false — and too frequent — reporting on money laundering can overwhelm the governing agencies and fail to improve the prosecution rates for money laundering crimes. What’s the solution? Simply put, it’s on all of us, including financial institutions and the media, to do better.
In the Media:
Since my consulting business focuses on helping banks navigate the many regulations tied to money laundering, I receive daily news alerts on the topic. Every day, there are 10–15 new headlines about money laundering. At first I was surprised, even though I know money laundering happens all over the world on a daily basis…but the sheer amount of people being put under investigation seemed inflated. I did a little more digging into the headlines.
I wasn’t entirely wrong; what I found was that some of the news headlines claiming a money-laundering investigation is underway were simply inaccurate. While the ultimate goal of the people under investigation might be to launder money, in some instances the media entirely mislabeled the crimes of the accused. In other stories, the media jumped to conclusions and used money laundering to create a ‘sexier’ headline. Here are two examples that stood out:
CEO of the Alacer Group. Sharing the latest news in financial crimes and best practices that enable financial institutions to prevent money laundering.