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Abuse From The Press

by Barbara Hurst

"Community banks may be attractive to terrorists because of their inexperience in dealing with international clients. Because almost all the large banks have an automated solution, anyone who is going to try and launder money is going to avoid those banks and try to find other avenues. Smaller banks are at risk because not all OFAC-targeted entities are situated abroad."

Do statements like the one above bother you as much as they do me? This is a direct quote from a sales person for OFAC products to a reporter on The American Banker - who felt it necessary to include it in the article.

The printed word in newspapers, more than in any other media, carries a certain weight, and as one of those privileged to share and report, I'm thoroughly disgusted with the damage being done by "freedom of the press." The press is providing publicity to destructive elements as well as information to our enemies. One senator said, in the days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, that he wanted to know what our military was planning and doing, but that he "hated to read about it first in the Washington Post."

In our training of financial institution employees we are very careful to instruct all involved that if they are robbed, do not talk to the press. I picked up a newspaper in San Diego a few years ago and saw, on the front page, a picture of a young lady who had been held up and terrorized the day before in a bank hold-up/hostage situation. Obviously, she had not had such training. In the article it revealed that: 1) the robber had gotten away. 2) they had just had their "...regular weekly delivery of cash..." from the armored car company. 3) he had gotten away with over $100,000. 4) the teller, whose name appeared under her picture, said she "...would never forget his face."

I can't be nice here - so I'll have to say - even if she was stupid enough to make those statements to a reporter, could the newspaper editor have had enough decency and common sense to omit them from the front page of the paper? If you were the robber, what would your reaction have been? If you were thinking of robbing a bank at any time, what would you be planning now???

Another memory that bothers me was the bank president who, during Y2K preparations, said - and was quoted - that he "...was almost sure of being held up because of all the extra cash they had in the vault and their proximity to the Mexican border." How would you have liked to have been working in that bank during December, 1999 or in January, 2000?

And as for the quote at the top of this column, if you were a terrorist who needed an account to work out of, where would you go to open it?

You have to believe they're grateful for the information we include in our newspapers.

Copyright © 2001 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 11, No. 11, 11/01

First published on 11/01/2001

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