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Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas Fined Heavily for Off-Channel Communications

Regulatory Crackdown on Wall Street’s Digital Secrets Results in Over $500 Million in Penalties

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Wells Fargo & Co. and BNP Paribas SA are among the companies slated to pay substantial penalties totaling hundreds of millions of dollars due to their employees’ use of unofficial communication platforms such as WhatsApp for conducting business.

This development marks the latest initiative by US regulatory bodies to tighten their grip on Wall Street’s record-keeping practices.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) disclosed on Tuesday that Wells Fargo units have agreed to a $125 million settlement, while BNP Paribas will pay $35 million for the same offenses.

Moreover, both of these financial institutions will also pay $75 million each to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for comparable violations committed by their derivatives brokerage divisions.

In total, the CFTC has levied penalties amounting to $260 million, while the SEC has secured agreements from firms to pay a combined $289 million.

Over the past few years, the SEC and CFTC have been intensifying their efforts to counter firms’ evasion of regulatory oversight by using communication platforms like WhatsApp and personal email accounts for business-related interactions.

Financial organizations are legally obligated to rigorously monitor communications relevant to their operations in order to prevent illicit activities.

Regulators have emphasized that the failure to adequately archive messages can impede investigations into misconduct.

The SEC, in its statement on Tuesday, revealed that its inquiry had uncovered widespread and long-standing instances of off-channel communications at 11 different firms. As part of the settlement agreements, these companies acknowledged that their employees had utilized platforms such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal for business discussions. According to the SEC, these companies failed to maintain satisfactory records. The CFTC reported similar findings.

Among other prominent firms agreeing to settlements on Tuesday were units of Bank of Montreal, Mizuho Financial Group, and Societe Generale SA.

These actions come on the heels of a series of comparable high-profile cases that emerged in the previous September. At that time, the SEC announced fines totaling $1.1 billion against firms including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Concurrently, the CFTC disclosed that firms had agreed to pay penalties totaling $710 million.

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Banking Sector

Access Bank, Others Collect N154 Billion in Electronic Banking Fees in H1’23, a 16.7% YoY Surge

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Global Banking - Investors King

In the first half of 2023, customers of Nigeria’s top nine commercial banks paid a whopping N154 billion in fees for utilizing electronic banking services, reflecting a robust 16.7% year-on-year increase compared to H1’22’s N131.97 billion.

The data, extracted from the financial statements of these banks, underscores the escalating trend of Nigerians embracing electronic payment channels.

Leading the pack in revenue generation from these fees is Access Bank, amassing N43.9 billion, followed by United Bank for Africa Plc (N51.07 billion), Zenith Bank (N22.27 billion), Guaranty Trust Bank (N21.2 billion), and others like Stanbic IBTC (N2.14 billion), First City Monument Bank (N7.4 billion), Unity Bank (N1.96 billion), Fidelity Bank (N1.85 billion), and Wema Bank (N3.13 billion).

Electronic banking services encompass a gamut of options, including internet banking, mobile banking, ATMs, and Point of Sale (PoS) systems.

Recent data from the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) for Q1’23 indicates a substantial surge in electronic transactions.

Transaction volume increased by 209% YoY to 4.7 billion, and transaction value grew by 48% YoY to N137.52 trillion.

The nine banks collectively raked in N66.7 billion in account maintenance fees and commissions during H1’23, reflecting a 14.7% YoY rise.

Zenith Bank led this category with N21.02 billion, trailed by Access Bank (N13.36 billion), Guaranty Trust Bank (N10.5 billion), and United Bank of Africa (N9.6 billion).

Overall, the banks’ cumulative net fees and commission income registered a substantial 20.7% YoY growth, reaching N448.47 billion in H1’23 from N371.43 billion in H1’22.

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Banking Sector

Access Holdings Posts 52.6% Profit for the First Half of the Year

Parent Company of Access Bank Celebrates Remarkable Financial Performance in H1’23

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Access Holdings Plc, the parent company of Access Bank, has reported a 58.9 percent surge in gross revenue to N940.3 billion for the first half of 2023.

The financial services giant also recorded remarkable growth in Profit Before Tax (PBT) and Profit After Tax (PAT) at 71.4 percent and 52.6 percent, respectively, culminating in N167.6 billion for PBT and N135.4 billion for PAT during the same period.

These financial milestones were unveiled as part of Access Holdings’ Audited Consolidated and Separate Financial Statements for the period concluding on June 30, 2023.

The driving force behind this unprecedented growth can be attributed to a potent combination of factors. A 63.0 percent growth in interest income and a 51.9 percent increase in non-interest income fueled the surge in gross revenue.

Access Holdings also witnessed a 35 percent year-to-date growth in customer deposits, capping the first half of 2023 at an impressive N12.5 trillion. This remarkable achievement encompassed all business segments, reinforcing the Group’s status as Nigeria’s largest financial institution by total assets.

The company’s total assets grew by 39.0 percent year-on-year to N20.9 trillion while shareholders’ funds surged by 40.6 percent to N1.7 trillion.

These astounding figures underline the Group’s ability to generate value from a diversified business portfolio, spanning banking, asset management, and payment services.

Herbert Wigwe, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, commented on the company’s positive performance, saying, “Our growth plans for the African continent remain firm and clear, driven by the strong long-term growth prospects and trade opportunities seen across many of the countries.”

He went on to emphasize the company’s commitment to its 5-year cyclical strategy, stating, “Our primary objective remains to transform Access Holdings Plc into a leading financial and ecosystem player, fostering opportunities for shared prosperity among all stakeholders.”

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Banking Sector

Central Bank of Nigeria Postpones 293rd Monetary Policy Committee Meeting

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Central Bank of Nigeria - Investors King

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced the postponement of its 293rd Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, originally scheduled for September 25th and 26th, 2023.

Dr. Isa AbdulMumin, the bank’s Director of Corporate Communications, released a statement on Thursday confirming the decision.

In the statement, Dr. AbdulMumin stated, “The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria has deferred its 293rd meeting, which was initially planned for Monday and Tuesday, September 25th and 26th, 2023, respectively. A new date will be communicated in due course. We regret any inconvenience this change may cause our stakeholders and the general public.”

While the CBN did not provide an official reason for the postponement, some industry experts suggest it may be related to the pending approvals for the newly appointed governor and deputy governors of the bank.

President Bola Tinubu recently nominated Yemi Cardoso as the potential head of the CBN. Additionally, Tinubu has endorsed the nominations of four new deputy governors for the apex bank, who are expected to serve for an initial term of five years, pending confirmation by the Senate.

The nominated deputy governors are Emem Usoro, Muhammad Abdullahi-Dattijo, Philip Ikeazor, and Bala Bello. However, the appointment of the CBN governor is contingent upon Senate confirmation, which is currently on a yearly recess.

The CBN assures stakeholders and the public that the rescheduled MPC meeting date will be communicated promptly as soon as it is confirmed.

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