Rewarding Failure

Mexican government employs former HSBC man accused of AML failings.

There is never a dull day in Mexico. Last week, it emerged that the man, who failed in his duty to protect HSBC México against money laundering and financial crime, has popped up in a similar post in the government. Ramón García Gibson led the anti-money laundering committee in HSBC México at a time when multiple failings were found that resulted in the bank being fined USD 1.9 billion. Unbelievably, the same man was found employed by the government as head of Legal Affairs of Vulnerable Activities in the Tax Administration Service (SAT).

A group of investigative journalists in Mexico managed to access a 10,000 page report by the Mexican financial regulator, Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores (CNBV), where the failings at HSBC Mexico were investigated between 2007 and 2012. For the first time, the minutes from HSBC’s Communication and Control Committee (CCC) were released, showing various omissions, irregularities and failures. The CCC’s members were representatives from various parts of the bank related to anti-money laundering. The committee was chaired by Ramón García Gibson.

“Anti-money laundering is an issue of supervision.”

Senior manager at Scotiabank.

On 23 September, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) addressed the issue, insisting that he is “going to ask for information,” and that the government “do not want to have bad officials.” But how was this allowed to happen? AMLO’s excuse was, “the government is big.” A senior manager at Scotiabank tells us, “We have seen HSBC making changes from HQ but the reality is that anti-money laundering is an issue of supervision. We [the banks] all have systems and processes but the supervisor has to do something with the data they have.”

“They will not remove him; they will kick the can down the road.”

Senior source at the Secretariat of Economy, Mexico.

So what now for Ramón García Gibson? Well, he still hasn’t resigned and it seems unlikely that he will be removed any time soon. A senior source at the Secretariat of Economy told us, “Gibson is very close to Santiago Nieto Castillo, the Head of the Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera [the Financial Intelligence Unit]. They will not remove him; they will kick the can down the road and wait for the media attention to move elsewhere. If it gets really bad, they might just relocate him to another department.”

Would you hire him? It is always a good idea to look beyond references when evaluating executive reputation and track record. We can help.

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