Marcy Wheeler: Will Treasury Hire the Guy Who Allowed JP Morgan Help Iran Launder Money?

Marcy Wheeler is a blogger and analyst who specializes in weedy document dumps.  This blog post is cross-posted from Emptywheel.

Two weeks ago, Treasury fired the guy in charge of FinCEN (the part of Treasury that enforces and tracks Suspicious Activities Reports), Jim Freisreportedly (pay wall) because he wanted to focus on law enforcement and financial crimes, rather than a more focused counterterrorism focus.

The issue wasn’t Fincen’s speed or personality conflicts, but more about control. To put it simply, Treasury wants more oversight of Fincen’s activities, including additional focus on international areas such as terrorist financing. “Fincen ought to be better integrated and tethered to the policy issues that relate to money laundering, terrorist financing and economic sanctions on behalf of the U.S. government. It’s not as well integrated as it should be,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Freis saw Fincen’s role as more independent, and was primarily concerned with the agency’s role in supporting law enforcement agencies as well as tackling other financial crimes such as mortgage fraud.

And if that isn’t enough to make you wonder about this Administration’s commitment to making banks obey the law, consider that the apparent leading candidate to replace Freis is JP Morgan’s anti-money laundering VP, William Langford.

In December 2009, when JPMC extended a $2.9 million loan to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping lines, in violation of WMD sanctions, Langford was the VP at JPMC in charge of money laundering. He was there, too, when JPMC decided not to self-disclose the loan until they had almost been repaid.

In the months before March 2011, when JPMC repeatedly claimed it didn’t have 20 documents relating to a wire transfer with Khartoum? Langford was at JPMC for that too.

The 9 wire transfers since April 2006 in violation of a range of sanctions? He was there for most of those.

And he was probably at JPM–though just barely–when JPMC transferred $20M in gold bullion–a ton of gold!–for an Iranian bank?

Now, presumably all this money laundering and sanctions violating happened in remote corners of JPMC, far from Langford’s views (though you would think his office would be involved in the non-responsive answers about the Khartoum documents and decisions about when and whether to self-disclose some of these violations). There is no reason to believe Langford facilitated any of this money laundering and sanctions violating.

Still, even aside from the whole revolving door problem, from the centrality of JPMC in both the MF Global and JPMC’s won Fail Whale investigations, it seems like Treasury might hire someone who couldn’t keep one bank in line, much less all of them.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. Jimbo

    The Treasury is looking for someone as enthusiastic about protecting financial criminals as Geithner.

    1. KnotRP

      “independent” == “not a team player”

      We can’t be having non-team players looking for fraud
      in all the wrong places now, can we?

  2. Waking Up

    Anyone who votes for Barack Obama in November is responsible for a continuation of these types of policies and decisions. Regardless of excuses, such as “lesser of two evils”, you will own these decisions.

    1. JamesW

      Thank you and exactly!!!

      Anyone who votes for Barack Oromney is insane!

      While I’m not a fan, at least I can vaguely understand conservatives supporting Ron Paul, but anyone….ANYONE, who claims to be a democrat — an certainly no progressive could do otherwise — MUST vote for Dr. Jill Stein in 2012.

      There is none other!

      And this is the one group really involved (at least in America, several other groups in UK) in real investigation of illicit financial flows:

      (In Norway it’s..)

      Most fincens today, especially a bunch organized through the IMF’s Edmont Group in Europe, are really nothing more than the managers of money laundering for the banksters around the planet.

  3. Sleeping

    Waking Up,
    Do you seriously believe that Romeny will change course and stop these types of policies and decisions. I don’t’ see any reason to believe that he won’t just continue them but expand them. Now I am not saying that what Barack has done is good, but I don’t have any reason to believe that Mitt will be anything but worse.

    1. Waking Up

      No, I don’t believe Mitt Romney will change course or stop these types of policies and decisions. That is why neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney should be President. But, if you think one of them should be and vote for either one, you are just as responsible in the future for THEIR decisions.

      1. SqueakyRat

        Like it or not, it is a choice of the lesser of two evils. That or a self-indulgent gesture.

        1. F. Beard

          That or a self-indulgent gesture. SqueakyRat

          Not necessarily since:

          The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1

          If we can’t in good conscience vote for either major candidate then the Lord cannot fault us since He is in control anyway.

          And if we started voting for those who we truly wish for then soon those would be the major candidates.

        2. JamesW

          The most “effective evil” (as Glen Ford at said) is President Obama.

          The other effective evil is Romney.

          The only good candidate is Dr. Jill Stein.

        3. Joe

          Well, no.

          It’s also a choice between first term and second term president. Might be better for your average man on the street to have a steady and regular turn-over of presidents, that way they tend to do less damage. There’s no third term, so they go for broke second term and we saw with Bush and Clinton how that went– pretty badly.

          Not that I want Romney to be president. But honestly, the lesser of two evils might mean voting these clowns out after only one term and not based on which ‘side’ of politics they’re on.

        4. Nathanael

          SqueakyRat, if you’re in a swing state, the lesser-of-two-evils argument makes sense.

          But if you’re in a “safe state”, there is no reason to vote major-party. Thank you electoral college!

    2. different clue

      Romney may be less worse than Obama on Social Security and Medicare because if Romney gets elected, the Senate Democrats might feel obligated to pretend to defend Social Security and Medicare from Romney’s privatization plans.

      But if Obama gets elected again, the Senate Democrats will certainly collaborate with Obama to destroy Social Security and Medicare. They want to do it, and a second term for so-called “Democrat” Obama will give them the cover they desperately seek to collaborate with the Republican Senators to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

      So there are any number of non-deceitful non-dishonest non-Republican-collaborating non-GreenParty third parties to vote for. Or if the election seems 50-50 in your state,
      you can vote for Romney to prevent the more effectively evil Obama from being re-elected. That is what I will do here in Michigan.

      1. jawbone

        If Obama and Dems, Senate and/or House, collaborate with Repubs to gut SocSec, Medicare and Medicaid (throw in food stamps –er card– for good measure), the Democratic Party will no longer be a viable political party.

        Feature, and not a bug?

        1. Nathanael

          Gutting food stamps would be the most self-destructive thing any government could do.

          I don’t think they understand the degree to which food stamps are preventing outright revolution.

          The Emperor Augustus bragged about how many people he was feeding in his breadlines, and built monuments to the number of people he had on welfare He was smarter than the people currently in power.

  4. emptyfull

    Oh, the corruption….

    I tell you folks, the Obama administration is going to start hemmoraging scandals soon, probably once the Romney camp figures out how to protect their donors. There’s too much rot and the system will not hold much longer.

      1. KnotRP

        Oh look, this puppet is all worn and dirty,
        while this other new puppet over here is all
        shiny and clean and ready to speak the truth
        to power.

        Or not.

    1. TK421

      For something to be a scandal, people need to think it scandalous. Republicans aren’t worried by a president who assassinates Americans or gives favors to bankers, and most Democrats don’t care what Obama does because he is a member of their tribe.

      1. Ms G

        “For something to be a scandal, people have to think it is scandalous.”

        Maxim of the month!

        When the peeps have been brainwashed into believing that 2008-Present was about “mistakes were made,” “errors,” “poor judgment”, “our casino economy is just too systemically important,” etc., there are no scandals, prosecutions, or reckonings. And that is where we are today.

  5. spooz

    The banking mafia seems to have found their man in Obama. I am considering voting for Romney, though he is probably just as owned. But as some here have said, at least the democrats may start acting like they care about the corruption. Or not.

    1. Nathanael

      If you’re in a safe state, vote third-party.

      If you’re in a swing state… well, you have some tough decisions to make. I think Romney is Obama on steroids, myself.

      Either way, focus on the downticket races where there are actually decent people running with a chance to win.

  6. Expat

    When the system is a failure, of course you throw the bum out. The election of a new guy (or woman, praise be) creates an opening for change, though no one with an ounce of common sense expects that of Mitt Romney. Yet the message must be sent. In 2006, 2008 and 2010, the voters threw the bums out. If they are smart, they will keep doing it until someone halfway decent emerges from the 300 million of us. This is a process that takes time.

    And, as history shows, it could be to late for our generation; the current condition is our punishment for allowing this type of parasite into our government.

    It was a revelation to the people of the world that the vaunted US of A couldn’t (or wouldn’t, shame on Obama) turn on a dime and reverse the evil of thirty years of Reagan-Bush. We clearly did not have the right choices in 2008. But this is the way our constitutional system works. These characters “serve” at our sufferance, and, like it or not, we have a democracy. The current state of affairs is our responsibility.

    1. Lidia

      “In 2006, 2008 and 2010, the voters threw the bums out.”

      See how well it’s working!!

      Please, once upon a time there used to be some actual difference between one set of bums and the other, but that fairy tale is over and done with, as it’s far easier to rule as a monoparty. Clinton and Obama are fine examples of getting the same shit, but in a friendlier package.

      TPTB can go on playing this “good cop/bad cop” game far longer than the populace can actually withstand their depradations.

      1. Nathanael

        Prior to the Civil War, the people “threw the bums out” repeatedly, and eventually managed to get critical mass to elect an untested third party candidate. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

        We may have to do this again.

    2. Lidia

      This was recently addressed over at Digby’s Hullaballo:
      (David Atkins quoting himself here)

      If the health insurance and financial industries really felt scared by any particular politician or political party, or their lobbying efforts were inadequate, they could throw them out of power in a heartbeat. With a wave of their hand and a few billion dollars or so in our direction, the pharma companies and Goldman Sachs could absolutely destroy the Democratic Party in 2010 and beyond. The only reason they don’t do so is that it’s cheaper and easier to buy a few key Democrats off instead, and intimidate the rest. Plus, they don’t have to run the risk of a right-wing populist backlash, either.

      That’s why Barack Obama can’t renege on his deal with PhRMA: PhRMA almost singlehandedly destroyed Hillarycare in 1993, and spent the money to tip the balance of the elections in 1994. They can easily do it again. So could Goldman Sachs and the rest of the financial vampires. Rahm Emmanuel knows this, too: the deals are in place in return for their holding their fire.

      And each and every one of you is being taken for fools. You work for an election or two to put chosen leaders in place, and expect those leaders to work their “leadership” magic to ram reforms down the throats of the corporate sector, failing to understand just how fully the corporate sector holds the cards.

      1. different clue

        Atkins exists to spin excuses for Obama and his Obamacrats. He knows very well that Obama and the Democrats could have brought Single Payer legislation forward and let the Republicans vote it down in public. The Obamacrats could then have said: “The existence of Republicans is why we can’t have nice things.”

        It could have been the start of making our Spanish Civil Cold War a two-way war with the goal of functionally exterminating the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement so we can then create the “nice things” they oppose. An FDR type president might have done that, for example.

        Obama’s secret mission was to destroy all hope of hope and make apathetic despair into the default setting of the public. Atkin’s mission is to advance Obama’s mission.

        As for us, if we can’t get results, we can still get revenge.

      2. Nathanael

        Atkins is just making excuses. Obama now has “kill orders”.

        He could easily round up the troublesome corporate executives as “terrorists”, and remove their ads from the air using “anti-terrorism” legislation.

        He chooses not to.

  7. Conscience of a Conservative

    It’s not uninteresting that Obama and Romney are in a race to build a war chest ahead of the 2012 elections. Going after the banks would not help

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