STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s SEB (SEBa.ST) has received a list of 194 of its corporate clients from public broadcaster SVT, a day before it airs a program investigating money laundering in the Baltics that is expected to include information about the bank.
SEB, which has previously said it had found no sign of being systematically used for money laundering although it could not offer guarantees, said in a statement on Tuesday that it had compared the names received from the broadcaster with its own internal analysis.
“The names on the list from Sveriges Television are, in all material respects, covered by the bank’s own analysis and do not change the bank’s fundamental assessment,” the bank said.
Fears SEB could be dragged into a money-laundering scandal that has rocked Nordic rivals Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO) and Swedbank (SWEDa.ST) sent its shares plunging 13 percent on Friday after it said it had been sent questions by SVT’s investigative news program “Uppdrag Granskning”.
Danske and Swedbank have previously admitted to failings in their money laundering controls in the Baltics.
Shares in SEB were up 1.8% at 1249 GMT on Tuesday.
SEB, one of the Baltic region’s biggest lenders, said customer relationships had been terminated with about 95 percent of clients whose names were supplied by SVT, and that the bank had reported any suspect activities to financial police.
“There are a handful from the list who are still with the bank and as far as we can see today those clients meet the criteria we have,” Frank Hojem, a spokesman for SEB, told Reuters.
“If we find anything suspicious, or these remaining clients don’t live up to our criteria, we would have to re-evaluate them,” he added.
SVT said in a statement it would publish some of its material at 0400 GMT on Wednesday, with the full show airing later that evening.
It also said the program would also include new information about Swedbank. Swedbank declined to comment.
Swedbank said on Nov. 7 that Uppdrag Granskning had provided it with information and interviewed its CEO Jens Henriksson.
Estonia’s financial watchdog dropped its probe into Swedbank on Monday as the investigation had become a criminal proceeding handled by the country’s prosecutor.
In response Swedbank said it continued to cooperate fully with all the authorities that are reviewing it.
SEB said it had strengthened its processes after being criticized by the Estonian financial watchdog in 2006 over its handling of non-resident clients and received information from an external whistleblower.
“Although SEB historically has lived up to the regulatory requirements, we can with today’s knowledge conclude that neither regulations nor the banking system’s ability have been sufficiently efficient to handle risks of money laundering before 2008,” it said.
Andreas Hakansson, an analyst for Danske Equities said it was still important to see the content of the TV show in order to understand what the implications for SEB.
“What I note is that SEB says it cannot guarantee it isn’t being used for money laundering, which means one of the clear risks here is that SEB will have to spend more money going through what has been happening in the region over the last 15 years, whereas Dankse and Swedbank have already spent significant money doing that,” he said.
SEB’s Hojem said the bank had already increased the amount it spends on compliance and added that the TV show’s investigation would not significantly change the bank’s position.
“Most of the information we received on Friday is already known to us,” he said, adding that when it comes to money laundering banks “Can never do enough and can always do more.”
Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kirsten Donovan