Arab Bank

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Arab Bank
Type Public
Traded as Amman Stock Exchange: ARBK
Industry Banking
Founded 1930; 84 years ago (1930)
Headquarters Amman, Jordan
Area served 30 countries[1]
Key people Sabih Masri (Chairman)
Products Current and saving accounts, Personal loans, Overdraft facility, Home loans, Car loans, Credit cards, Term deposits, Funds transfer, Currency exchange, Investment opportunities, Commercial lending, Project and structured finance, Private banking, Asset management, Brokerage, Money markets, Foreign exchange, Capital markets, Commercial lending, Term financing, Project and structured finance, Corporate finance and capital markets
Net income US$ 256.9 million (Q1 2013)[2]
Total assets US$ 45.7 billion (Q1 2013)[2]
Total equity US$ 7.6 billion (Q1 2013)[2]
Employees 6,135 (2013)[3]
Subsidiaries Arab Bank (Switzerland) Limited (sister institution), Arab Bank Australia Limited, Europe Arab Bank plc, Islamic International Arab Bank plc, Arab Sudanese Bank, Arab Investment Bank S.A.L., Arab Tunisian Bank, Arab Bank – Syria, Al Arabi Investment Group (AB Invest), Arab National Leasing Company, Al Nisr Al Arabi Insurance Company, Al Arabi Investment Group Company
Website Arabbank.com

Arab Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East, founded in 1930 in Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine, as the first private sector financial institution in the Arab world. Headquartered today in Amman, Jordan, it serves clients in more than 600 branches in 30 countries on five continents. Arab Bank is a publicly held shareholding company listed on the Amman Stock Exchange.

The bank is a major economic engine in Jordan and throughout the Middle East/Northern Africa, providing banking services and capital, and facilitating development and trade throughout the region. According to its website, the bank is the highest-ranked by market capitalization, and represents 28% of the Amman Stock Exchange.

In 2013, Global Investor named Arab Bank the "Best Cash Manager in the Middle East" and distinguished Arab Bank Invest as the "Best Brokerage House in Jordan".[4] Euromoney also honored it as "Best Bank in Jordan" for the sixth consecutive year.[5] In 2013, Arabian Business recognized the bank as Regional Bank of the Year.[6] From 2012 to 2013, Global Finance honored the bank with seven awards including Best Trade Finance Provider in the Middle East, Jordan and Yemen, Best Emerging Market Bank in Jordan and Yemen and Best Foreign Exchange Provider and Best Investment Bank in Jordan.[7] According to its 2010 Sustainability Report, J.P. Morgan honored Arab Bank Switzerland with the Quality Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement 2009–2010 Best in Class.[8]

In 2005, the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency assessed a $24 million penalty against the New York Branch of Arab Bank for failing to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program to manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, and violating the suspicious activity reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. In September 2014, Arab Bank was found liable in federal court in New York for knowingly supporting terrorism relating to 24 different terrorist acts.[9] A separate trial will determine the amount of damages.[10]

Arab Bank headquarters in Amman, Jordan.

Global expansion[edit]

In the 1940s and 1950s, the bank grew to 43 branches and had JOD 5.5 million in capital. During this period, the bank focused on investments and became a catalyst for Arab economic developments when most other financial institutions avoided the risk.

The Arab Bank building in Zürich, Switzerland.

During the nationalization wave of the 1960s, Arab Bank lost a total of 25 branches.[11] Following the Six Day War in 1967, the bank closed its West Bank and Gaza branches. Although it closed branches in the Middle East, the bank continued to expand in other parts of the world. In 1961, the bank opened its first international location, becoming the first Arab financial institution to establish a presence in Switzerland.[11] By 1964 Arab Bank Switzerland had locations in both Zürich and Geneva.

In 1974, after his father’s death, Abd Al-Majeed Shoman was named Chairman and General Manager of Arab Bank.[12] Under his leadership, the bank expanded its scope of products and services into new areas of business.[12] Though it previously emphasized trade and small-scale construction finance, the bank undertook a leading role in large-scale project finance, both directly and through participation in syndicated loans.[12] By the 1990s, the bank added investment banking to its services. In the mid-1990s, the bank was given permission by the Central Bank of Jordan and the Israeli Central Bank to reopen in the West Bank/Gaza under the supervision of both the CBJ and the Palestinian Monetary Authority.[13]

In May 2000, Abd Al Majeed’s son, Abdel Hamid became CEO. Under his leadership, Arab Bank reopened operations in Syria in 2005, and took steps to commence its activities in Iraq, circumstances permitting.[14] In January 2007, Arab Bank established Europe Arab Bank (EAB), a London-based, fully owned subsidiary.[15] It also acquired 50% of MNG Bank in Turkey (now known as Turkland Bank) and 50% of Al Nisr Al Arabi Insurance company in Jordan, thus introducing bancassurance to its product variety. Also, the group established Arab Bank-Syria.[16]

Over the next few years, the bank opened branches in Frankfurt, London, Australia, New York and Singapore. Following the Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Palestine, at the invitation of Israel, Arab Bank opened branches in several Palestinian towns with broad governmental support.[12]

Arab Bank today[edit]

Today, Arab Bank provides consumer banking services, as well as corporate and institutional banking services to individuals, corporations, government agencies and other international financial institutions.

After years of being ranked A- from Fitch, A- from Standard & Poor, and A3 from Moody’s, the bank’s rankings were dropped twice in 2011. Moody’s first downgraded its Local Currency Deposit Rating to Baa1,[17] and then downgraded the bank’s Financial Strength Rating to a C- from a C. In both instances, Moody’s noted the decision was based on an analysis of political instability in the region.[17] In April 2012, Moody’s announced a possible downgrade of the Bank’s current Financial Strength Rating as well as its local currency long- and short-term deposit ratings.[18] In November 2011, Standard & Poor’s lowered its long-term counterparty credit ratings to 'BB' from 'BB+', noting the ratings are constrained by the local currency ratings on the sovereign. As of 25 January 2012, Fitch still had Arab Bank ranked at an A-.[19]

As of their 2013 first quarter report, Arab Bank Group had a shareholders' equity base of $7.6 billion (USD), a net profit before tax of $256.9 million (USD), and $45.7 billion (USD) in assets.[20]

In early 2012, Arab Bank was among the top 10 stocks on the S&P-Hawkamah Pan Arab ESG Index. The ranking selects the Middle East's top 50 companies on the basis of environmental, social, and corporate governance standards and is a given by Standard & Poor's and Hawkamah.[21]

Compliance[edit]

In 2005, the bank's New York branch was fined $24 million for failing to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program to manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, and violating the suspicious activity reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. In 2014, the bank was found liable for knowingly supporting terrorism relating to 24 different terrorist acts.[22][23]

In 2006, the bank participated at the International Anti-Money Laundering/Combating Financing Terrorism Conference hosted by the Union of Arab Banks and supported by the United States Department of the Treasury.[24] The conference sought to unite the public and private sector in strengthening defenses against terrorist financing and money laundering in the MENA region.[25]

Since 2006, the bank has held a regulatory compliance summit with speakers from across the international banking community to discuss and learn more about the compliance environment.[26] In 2008, at the request of the Association of Banks, Arab Bank hosted a compliance workshop attended by compliance professionals from banks throughout the country including the Central Bank of Jordan.[27]

In 2009, Michael Matossian, the bank’s Executive Vice President and Global Head of Group Regulatory Compliance was named Chief Compliance Officer of the Year at the 2009 Compliance Awards.[28]

Board of directors[edit]

  • Sabih Taher Masri, Chairman
  • Samir Farhan Kawar, Deputy Chairman
  • Saleh Ben Sa’ad Al-Muhanna, Representative of Ministry of Finance, Saudi Arabia, Board Member
  • Nazek Al Hariri, Board Member
  • Riad Burhan Taher Kamal, Board Member
  • Mohammed Ahmad Al-Hariri, Board Member
  • Ibrahim Izzeddin, Representative of Social Security Corporation, Board Member
  • Khaled Irani, Representative of Abdel Hamid Shoman Foundation, Board Member
  • Wahbeh Abdullah Tamari, Board Member

Controversy[edit]

$24 million fine; failure to manage risks of money laundering and terrorist financing[edit]

In 2005, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) investigated Arab Bank’s New York branch, and found the bank failed to adequately monitor transactions it processed for suspicious activity. The agencies:

determined that the New York Branch of Arab Bank failed to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing in connection with United States dollar clearing transactions.[29]

The OCC and FinCEN assessed a $24 million penalty against the New York Branch of Arab Bank for failing to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program to manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, and violating the suspicious activity reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act.[30] In the agreement, Arab Bank neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.[30]

Arab Bank stated that the Consent Orders made clear for the first time “that banks have a duty to conduct their own review of their customers' customers and apply essentially the same [anti-money-laundering] controls and independent testing to correspondent banking transactions as they do to their own customers' accounts.”[31]

As part of the settlement, in addition to the fine Arab Bank was required to maintain at least $420 million in assets in the U.S.[32]

Israel Defense Forces investigation[edit]

On 26 February 2004 the Israel Defense Forces confiscated funds from Arab Bank's Ramallah branch in connection with an investigation into whether certain account holders were supporting terrorism. On the same day, the IDF raided other banks including two branches of the Cairo-Amman Bank.[33]

In September 2009, the IDF issued a letter to Arab Bank stating that it had no evidence that the Bank or any of its directors or employees were involved in or funded terrorist activities.[33]

Gill v. Arab Bank[edit]

In a civil litigation action filed in 2011, Israeli resident Mati Gill sued Arab Bank for damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act for injuries he sustained in an alleged terrorist attack in Israel in 2008.[34] Gill alleged he sustained wounds as a result of gunfire shot from Gaza into Israel that he attributed to Hamas.[34] In his complaint, Gill asserted the Bank acted recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally in processing financial transactions that benefited individuals and organizations that were allegedly affiliated with Hamas, and that this contributed to Hamas’s ability to conduct terrorist attacks.[35] On 12 September 2012, Senior Judge Jack B. Weinstein found Gill failed to show the bank directly caused the attack, dismissing his claim that the bank aided and abetted Hamas.[36] Judge Weinstein dismissed plaintiff’s claims in their entirety on 6 November 2012[37] after concluding that “the evidence does not prove that the Bank acted with an improper state of mind or proximately caused plaintiff's injury.”[38]

Bank liable for knowingly supporting terrorism[edit]

Several civil lawsuits have been filed against the Bank in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn under the Anti-Terrorism Act and Alien Tort Statute.[39] In these cases, U.S. and non-U.S. plaintiffs allege they or their family members were harmed by acts of terrorism that occurred in Israel or the West Bank/Gaza from 1995 to 2005. They allege that the Bank held accounts for individuals and organizations that, in turn, supported terrorist activities. Similar cases were brought against UBS, Credit Lyonnais, Bank of China, American Express Bank LTD, National Westminster Bank, PLC and Commerzbank AG.[40]

The Bank maintains that it provided routine financial services in compliance with governing laws and regulations. It denies ever knowingly supporting terrorism in any way.[41] Plaintiffs specifically argue that the Bank is liable for processing payments sent by the "Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada Al Quds" to Palestinians from 2000 through 2004. These payments, according to the plaintiffs, were intended to encourage acts of terrorism.[42]

In a 5 May 2002 interview on Meet the Press, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed that the Bush Administration had spoken directly to Saudi officials about monies raised by the Saudi Committee through a telethon.[43] In that same interview, Secretary Powell stated that he believed the Saudi's report that those monies were going through the International Committee for the Red Cross, the United Nations Relief Agency, and "going for humanitarian purposes to families" and "not [as] a reward for suicide bombing, but [for] taking care of people in need."[43] According to the Bank, the Committee was not an account-holder, it believed that the Committee was a legitimate humanitarian organization, and its role in handling the Committee payments was limited to processing transfer instructions sent from a correspondent bank in Saudi Arabia.[44] To date the Saudi Committee has not been designated as a financier of terrorism by the U.S.[44]

In 2007, the Bank filed third-party complaints against Bank Hapoalim, B.M., Israel Discount Bank Ltd. and Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd., alleging that each of these banks initiated or processed funds transfers for some of the same organizations that plaintiffs allege served as well known "fronts" for terrorist organizations.[45] The Bank argued that to the extent that it might be found liable to plaintiffs for providing financial services to these same organizations, Bank Hapoalim, B.M., Israel Discount Bank Ltd. and Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd. should contribute to any damages.[45] On 3 April 2009, the District Court dismissed the claims against Bank Hapoalim, B.M., Israel Discount Bank Ltd. and Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd. after finding that neither the Anti-Terrorism Act nor the Alien Tort Statute provided the bank with a right to seek contribution from parties that were not named in plaintiffs' complaints.[45]

A central dispute in this litigation focused on the Bank's discovery obligations. Plaintiffs demanded that the Bank turn over the customer account records for more than 40,000 foreign clients. The Bank, however, said that it would violate the foreign criminal laws of Jordan and Lebanon and the Palestinian territories for it to disclose those records.[46] The Bank provided more than 200,000 foreign bank records, but told the Court that it was barred by foreign laws from providing additional records.[47] Plaintiffs then asked the Court to impose trial sanctions against the Bank in response to its non-production. On 1 June 2009, Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky issued a Report and Recommendation that recommended imposing sanctions against the Bank intended to "restore the 'evidentiary balance' that [w]as been disturbed by the non-production of important evidence," but denied plaintiffs' request for imposing more severe sanctions that would have barred the Bank from presenting a wide range of evidence at trial.[48] On 18 June 2009, Magistrate Judge Pohorelsky amended his Report and Recommendation to narrow the scope of one of his sanctions.[49]

After plaintiffs objected, in July 2010, the District Court deviated from the Magistrate's Report and Recommendations, and imposed the sanctions that plaintiffs had originally requested.[50] According to the District Court's decision, jurors were to be instructed that they may, but are not required to, infer that the Bank knowingly and purposefully provided financial services to terrorists.[51]

In November 2010, the Bank filed a petition for a Writ of Mandamus and a collateral order appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York asking it to vacate the District Court's sanctions order.[52] The Government of Jordan filed an amicus curiae brief with the Second Circuit calling the District Court's sanctions order an "affront to the Kingdom's sovereignty."[53] The Jordanian Government argued any damage to the Bank could undermine global counter-terrorism efforts because it would push customers in the region to an underground financial system where transactions cannot be tracked, triggering political instability.[53] The Union of Arab Banks and Institute of International Bankers also filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Bank.[54] In its filing, the Union of Arab Banks stated the sanctions placed harsh measures against the Bank for complying with foreign banking laws. The UAB also warned the sanctions order “will have a devastating impact” on the region, the international banking community and international relationships.[54] The Institute of International Bankers amicus brief stated that restrictions on disclosure of personal financial information are standard throughout the international banking community, including in the U.S., and that the Bank should not be punished for abiding by these laws.[54]

On 6 March 2012, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit heard arguments from both sides on the Bank’s petition for a Writ of Mandamus. On 18 January 2013 the Second Circuit dismissed Arab Bank’s appeal and denied its petition for a writ of mandamus, on procedural grounds, stating that it didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the appeal pre-trial.[55] In its decision, the court said, “the sanctions order is not a reviewable collateral order, and we therefore dismiss the bank’s appeal for want of jurisdiction.”[56] On 24 June 2013 Arab Bank filed a certiorari petition with the Supreme Court of the United States asking the court to review the sanctions.[57] On 16 August 2013 the Supreme Court requested the plaintiffs file a response.[58] On 21 October 2013 the Supreme Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General to file a brief on the views of the federal government.[59] In June 2014, the Supreme Court rejected the bank’s appeal.[60]

The Bank previously sought discovery from Bank Hapoalim, B.M. and Israel Discount Bank Ltd. arguing that those Israeli banks initiated or participated in financial transfers for some of the same parties that plaintiffs allege were well-known "fronts" for terrorist organizations that directed their violent activities against the State of Israel.[61] The Bank argued that these records, if produced, would offer "circumstantial evidence of [its] lack of knowledge" that the charities at issue were allegedly well-known "fronts" for terrorist organizations opposed by Israel.[61] However, the Bank's discovery requests as to Israeli bank records were denied after the Court found that those records were protected from disclosure by foreign financial privacy laws.[61]

On 22 September 2014, Arab Bank, after 30 days of trial and two days of jury deliberation, was found liable for knowingly supporting terrorism relating to 24 different terrorist acts in the case of Linde v. Arab Bank Plc, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).[62][63] It was found to have assisted Hamas by knowingly routing compensation from Saudi donors to the families of suicide bombers and provided banking services to Hamas leaders and charities controlled by the group, which the U.S. has designated as a foreign terrorist organization, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990.[64] The plaintiffs' lawyer said: "Terrorist organizations are dependent on the financial system to operate. They’ve been able to thrive largely because folks like Arab Bank ... have turned a blind eye."[65] One juror echoed that, saying: "the money and the financing is the oxygen for the terrorists."[66] A separate trial will determine the amount of damages owed by Arab Bank to approximately 300 victims and the family members of victims.[67][68]

Social responsibility[edit]

In 2011, the Bank donated over 8 million Jordanian Dinars to its Abd Al-Hameed Shoman Foundation to support scientific research and studies in the humanities in Jordan and the Middle East.[69] In late 2009, Arab Bank launched ‘Together’, a corporate social responsibility program that links four non-profits dedicated to poverty alleviation, education, health and environmental protection.[70] In 2011, Arab Bank donated more than 177,000 Jordanian Dinars to the Together Program. In March 2011, Arab Bank Chairman Abdel Hamid Shoman announced the Bank would be partnering with the private sector and allocating one million Jordanian Dinars for development projects to help fight against poverty and unemployment in Jordan.[69]

Abd Al Hameed Shoman Foundation[edit]

In 1978, Arab Bank created the Abd Al-Hameed Shoman Foundation to promote social development in the Arab world in the fields of science and the humanities. It is one of the only foundations created by a private sector company in Jordan.[71] The Foundation organizes the Abd Al Hameed Shoman Cultural Forum which brings together leading scientists, educators and innovators of thoughtful discussion on today’s cultural issues. In 2011, Arab Bank committed approximately 87% of its annual budget for community investment through the foundation.[69]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]