Signature Bank, a cryptocurrency-friendly bank, is reportedly under investigation by two United States government bodies over concerns that it did not take adequate measures to detect potential money laundering by its clients. According to a Bloomberg report on March 15, investigators with the Justice Department were examining whether Signature was taking preemptive measures to monitor transactions for “signs of criminality” and properly vetting account holders. A separate probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission was also “taking a look” at the bank, although details regarding the nature of the SEC’s probe were not reported.
The investigations may have contributed to the recent decision by New York state regulators to close the bank, although it is unclear when the investigations began and what effect, if any, they had on the closure. Signature and its staff are not accused of wrongdoing, and the investigations may be finalized without any charges or further action taken by the SEC or the Department of Justice.
The report comes after a class action lawsuit was filed by Signature shareholders on March 14, alleging that the bank and former executives claimed to be “financially strong” just three days before it was forcibly shuttered. Barney Frank, a former board member of Signature Bank, has claimed that the regulators wanted “to send a very strong anti-crypto message” and that the bank became the “poster boy” for this message, despite there being “no insolvency based on the fundamentals.”
Signature Bank was closed on March 12 as part of a series of bank closures that also included Silvergate Capital and Silicon Valley Bank. The DOJ and the SEC have reportedly since initiated separate investigations into the collapse of Silvergate Capital and SVB. The regulators will examine the events leading up to the bank’s collapse, including scrutinizing security filings that disclosed the sale of SVB shares by the firm’s CEO Greg Becker and CFO Daniel Beck that took place two weeks prior to its downfall.
The SEC has not formally commented on the matters, but SEC chair Gary Gensler said on March 12 that it “will investigate and bring enforcement actions if we find violations of the federal securities laws.” The investigations into Signature Bank and other cryptocurrency-friendly banks highlight the increasing scrutiny of the cryptocurrency industry by regulatory bodies, particularly in the United States.