Goldman Sachs hit with record $350m fine for 1MDB failings

Goldman Sachs ignored a series of ‘red flags’ in connection with 1MDB, according to the Hong Kong markets watchdog.
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Updated 23 October 2020

Goldman Sachs hit with record $350m fine for 1MDB failings

  • Hong Kong watchdog accuses investment bank of ‘serious lapses and deficiencies’ over $2.6bn wealth fund scandal

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s markets watchdog on Thursday fined Goldman Sachs’s Asian business $350 million for its role in Malaysia’s multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal, the largest single fine ever levied by the regulator in the Asian financial hub.

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said serious lapses and deficiencies in management controls at Goldman Sachs (Asia) had contributed to the misappropriation of $2.6 billion raised by the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) raised the funds in three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman said the Wall Street bank would issue a statement in due course.

The 1MDB scandal has been a costly and long-running sore for the US investment bank.

In July, Goldman agreed to pay $3.9 billion to settle Malaysia’s criminal probe and this week it is expected to agree to pay more than $2 billion to settle US charges over its role in the scandal.

FASTFACT

$4.5 Billion

Malaysian and US authorities estimate $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB in an elaborate scheme that spanned the globe.

Malaysian and US authorities estimate $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB in an elaborate scheme that spanned the globe and implicated high-level officials in the fund, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Goldman staff and others.

The three bond offerings, which raised a combined $6.5 billion, were arranged and underwritten by UK-based Goldman Sachs International, with work conducted by deal team members in multiple jurisdictions, who shared the revenue generated.

The SFC said Goldman Sachs Asia, the bank’s Hong Kong-based compliance and control hub for the region, had significant involvement in the origination, approval, execution and sales process of the three bond offerings.

The bank’s Asia hub had earned $210 million from the offerings, the largest share among the various Goldman entities.

“This enforcement action is the result of a rigorous, independent investigation conducted by the SFC,” said Ashley Alder, the SFC’s CEO.

The 1MDB bond deals were obtained for Goldman by its banker Tim Leissner, who in August 2018 admitted that he had conspired with Malaysian financier Jho Low and others to pay bribes and kickbacks to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials to obtain and retain the business from 1MDB for the bank.

US court documents show Low was rejected as a private wealth management client on several occasions as his source of wealth could not be verified, resulting in a potential money laundering risk.

Nonetheless, Goldman’s regional and firm-wide committees that vetted the bond offerings accepted Leissner’s false assertions that Low had no roles in the bond offerings without making further inquiries, the SFC said.

“Apart from the involvement of Low, there were a number of red flags present in the bond transactions which should have called for a closer examination of the corruption and money laundering risks involved,” its statement of disciplinary action said.

These included the fact that the amount raised far exceeded the actual needs of 1MDB, and the sovereign wealth fund’s willingness to pay high fees and repeated emphasis on confidentiality and speed of execution, the SFC said.


Bitcoin heads for worst weekly loss in months

Updated 22 January 2021

Bitcoin heads for worst weekly loss in months

  • The world’s most popular cryptocurrency fell more than 5 percent to an almost three-week low of $28,800 early in the Asia session

SINGAPORE: Bitcoin wavered on Friday and was heading toward its sharpest weekly drop since September, as worries over regulation and its frothy rally drove a pullback from recent record highs.
The world’s most popular cryptocurrency fell more than 5 percent to an almost three-week low of $28,800 early in the Asia session, before steadying near $32,000. It has lost 11 percent so far this week, the biggest drop since a 12 percent fall in September.
Traders said a report posted to Twitter by BitMEX Research suggesting that part of a bitcoin may have been spent twice was enough to trigger selling, even if concerns were later resolved.
“You wouldn’t want to rationalize too much into a market that’s as inefficient and immature as bitcoin, but certainly there’s a reversal in momentum,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne, in the wake of the BitMEX report.
“The herd has probably looked at this and thought it sounded scary and shocking and it’s now the time to sell.”
Bitcoin was trading more than 20 percent below the record high of $42,000 hit two weeks ago, losing ground amid growing concerns that it is one of a number of price bubbles and as cryptocurrencies catch regulators’ attention.
During a US Senate hearing on Tuesday, Janet Yellen, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the US Treasury, expressed concerns that cryptocurrencies could be used to finance illegal activities.
That followed a call last week from European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde for global regulation of bitcoin.
Still, some said the pullback comes with the territory for an asset that is some 700 percent above the 2020 low of $3,850 hit in March.
“It’s a highly volatile piece,” said Michael McCarthy, strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney. “It made extraordinary gains and it’s doing what bitcoin does and swinging around.”
Second-biggest cryptocurrency ethereum initially slipped to a one-week low on Friday before rising 6 percent late in the Asia session to $1,177.