Living up to the Bankers’ Oath? – HRIF.EU Challenges CEOs of ING, ABN AMRO and Rabobank Over Excessive Anti-Money Laundering Procedures And De-risking

In a bold move, our foundation HRIF.EU has taken a stand against Dutch banks, accusing them of overstepping anti-money laundering regulations by excessive local deviations, unfounded in European law and infringing on human rights of their customers.

The dispute centers around the banks’ aggressive approach to identifying unusual transactions, a practice deemed excessive by the foundation, as the European AML-Directive specifices that suspicious transactions should be reported. In addition HRIF.EU notes that banks send in more private customer details in their messages, than the Dutch AML-law allows. The consequence is that these banks adopt a too strict stance on customer offboarding, using onerous general terms and conditions to achieve this.

Deafening silence from the top CEO’s of ING, Rabobank and ABN AMRO in policy debate over excessive AML in the Netherlands

Over the course of the past year, the foundation has appealed with two subsequent letters to the individual CEO’s of the consumer banks in the Netherlands as well as the Dutch Bankers Association (which is representing and communicating the collective policy position of Dutch banks on this topic). However, this was to no avail.

It is noteworthy that with their policy choices the banks ignore the advice of the Dutch bank supervisor (De Nederlandsche Bank: DNB) who suggested a shift to the more efficient reporting of suspicious transaction, in anticipation of harmonised EU regulations to that effect. The CEOs of the big Dutch banks also leave the explanation of their policy stance in the current debate in the Netherlands on the need of a pooled transaction monitoring company: Transaction Monitoring Netherlands, to the Dutch Bankers Association.

The reprimand on remuneration for Ralph Hamers also entered into play in 2023

Despite repetitive policy positions by the Dutch Council of State, by the Dutch Data Protection Authority the Dutch banks do not change their views and policy position. However, when in April 2023, Ralph Hamers was disciplined for not living up to the Dutch bankers oath, by personally not being open and transparant in his communication on the disputed remuneration policy, this was the moment that our foundation decided to hold the Dutch bankers to their bankers’ oath and file a complaint notice (in Dutch here).

In a passionate letter our founder asked the Dutch CEO’s in April 2023 to reflect on their policy positions personally and revisit their policy stance on excessive AML. ‘Try and block the spending of your own kid’s pocket money and see their reaction: this is what your company does every day to its customers’. No response was received. In essence the Dutch CEOs delegated the defense of their positions to the Dutch Bankers Association, raising questions about accountability and transparency.

Reminder, refusal to talk and notification under Dutch Bankers’ Oath

When in October 2023, the Dutch central bank reiterated its position that the Dutch system of transaction reporting could more efficiently be modified to suspicious reporting, the foundation HRIF.EU reminded the Dutch bankers Association and its members on the relevance of this statement as well as the media attention paid to the excessive derisking of banks, spurred by their hunt for unusual rather than suspicious transactions. It proposed to share its legal insights with any member of staff in order to propell the debate, but this was flat out denied.

In response to this denial to communicate Human Rights in Finance.EU has taken the step to file a complaint with the Foundation for Banking Ethics Enforcement that deals with compaints under the Dutch Bankers Oath. The foundation alleges that the top executives are failing to adhere to the code of conduct, a crucial component of the legally binding bankers’ oath in the Netherlands.

What’s the core of the complaint?

The complaint draws on the prior attempts/interaction between HRIF.EU, the bankers and their banking association, and contains the following three interconnected claims:

  1. While banks pretend to be keeping the market clean from money laundering, they have themselves actively allowed and condoned the use of iDeal by illegal cryptocompanies, thereby committing a money laundering crime themselves; this act is being downplayed and hushed by a legally incorrect bankers practice on crypto-company evaluation
  2. Banks send in more private details to the Financial Intelligence Unit than is prescribed in the law, thereby rountinely infringing on the human rights of their customers, while the Dutch Bankers Association holds up the communication placeholder: ‘Dutch banks respect the privacy of their customers’
  3. When personally challenged to discuss the above and other excessive anti money laundering policies of their banks, the CEOs of ING, Rabobank and ABN AMRO do not respond and delegate this moral/ethical and legal discussion to the Dutch Bankers Association. This is in violation of the code of conduct rule that each signatory to the bankers oath will be open and transparant on his personal role in the ethical matter that is relevant to its own functioning in the banking sector

A Christmas Carol for the top bankers?

So what’s next? Well, in principle some three years may now pass by before the Foundation for Banking Ethics Enforcement will have studied and discussed our complaints.

Living up to the Bankers’ Oath? – HRIF.EU Challenges CEOs of ING, ABN AMRO and Rabobank Over Excessive Anti-Money Laundering Procedures And De-risking

However, the foundation hopes that the top bankers draw inspiration from A Christmas Carol. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if the policy change happens a bit faster this time, and our foundation’s complaint is a sort of ghost of Christmas future, already prompting contemplation?

Microsoft Bing gave us a hand to show how their response would look. The prompt is: three old male grey bankers after having seen the ghost of Christmas future.

We wish everyone happy holidays and a wonderful new year.