We feature capeless-crusader Daniel Wager, Vice President, Global Financial Crime Compliance Strategy in this third issue of our “Who We Are” series. Daniel has an esteemed career fighting the money-laundering activities of notorious criminals such as Manuel Noriega and in this blog, he explains how there are no victimless financial crimes as he reflects on those whose life savings were stolen in a pension fund scam.
How did you come to work in the Financial Crime Compliance (FCC) field?
I began my career at age 17 in the U.S. Army’s first Special Operations Command. During the invasion of Panama, I was responsible for collecting financial documents and assembling evidence against the dictator Manuel Noriega. That was the first time I heard the term “money laundering.” I was told to “grab every bank statement you can find.”
After the army, I worked in various positions for the federal government investigating racketeering, corruption and fraud. One case in Connecticut brought down two mayors and the governor for involvement in organized crime and massive scale embezzlement.
I was a Special Agent with the U.S. Customs Service (now the Department of Homeland Security) when 9/11 occurred. That is when I gained experience investigating terrorism finance. After that, I worked for HSBC and TD Bank, helping them to identify financial crime.
It has been a long journey that gave me the opportunity to see the different angles of financial crime. I came to LexisNexis Risk Solutions in 2016 where I’m now on the solutions provider side of FCC.
What do you like about your job?
I love digging into the financials, identifying fraud and funds being laundered. Nothing is more fun than tracing the flow of money through shell companies and identifying the people who are benefiting from illicit activities. I like finding the bad guys and I let someone else chase them.
Why is the work you do in FCC so important?
There are no victimless financial crimes. When a government official commits fraud or embezzles public funds, it hurts everyone. It leads to higher taxes and diverts money that could be used to do good things, such as build a community center or improve public transportation.
The individuals who exploit systems for personal financial gain do so at the expense of many and often it is those who can least afford it. At the Department of Labor, I worked on a corruption case in which someone stole millions from a pension fund. That money couldn’t be recovered and thousands of victims ended up with far less for their retirement. Cases like this are what motivate me.
Can you talk about your work related to the funding of terrorism?
Terrorism is a crime of ideology not greed. It is searching for a needle in a haystack out of the trillions of dollars moving through the financial system. But it’s an incredibly important needle. We need to know if money is flowing to people associated with terror.
Unfortunately, most terrorism is investigated only after an attack has occurred. Financial crime compliance can help us to be more proactive in preventing terrorism.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected FCC?
COVID fundamentally changed the way that people interact with businesses, banks and the government. We have suddenly moved to an economy in which face-to-face transactions are rare. People buy goods, transfer money and check their bank balances online.
The opportunities for fraud have increased with online interactions but so have the opportunities to catch fraud. We can leverage data and solutions to identify fraud because people leave a digital trail.
Historically, a person walks into a bank with a check, presents an ID and requests their funds. A teller has to make a quick decision about the legitimacy of the customer and transaction.
Online, however, people leave a trail of attributes behind — their device, where it’s located, how they interact with that device and places their device or digital identity have been. An online transaction for $200 might seem ordinary, but if you see that the customer has recently done the same transaction with 15 other banks, now you are looking at a large-scale fraudster.
Thanks to COVID, many businesses have learned to leverage data and technology to identify fraud. These are lessons learned that will not be lost even after the pandemic is over.
Why should businesses choose LexisNexis Risk Solutions for FCC solutions?
We have at our disposal a range of solutions that is incredibly compelling in its value and a unique universe of data regarding physical and digital identities. We also have the ability to identify both the good and the bad actors. Other companies’ solutions catch good customers along with the bad. They incorrectly stop people from accessing loans, cashing checks, and negotiating funds. Our FCC solutions have a strong corporate commitment to inclusion and transparency to benefit the majority of people — who are good customers.
Do you feel you are having a positive impact on financial crime?
Absolutely. Our efforts to fight financial crime and illicit finance have an immediate effect in the corporate space, but they also have a real and measurable impact upon people. Every time we accurately find fraudsters and illicit financiers who are then punished and, conversely, speed-up inclusion for those who are good and lawful, we have had a positive impact.
Also, financial corruption often flows into other criminal activity. Illicit funds can be tied to serious crimes like human trafficking, sex trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass disruption. The things we do in FCC to identify assets and Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) are often used as the genesis of other cases with even more serious crimes. FCC is not only about business and the economy; we are undeniably helping people. That is what inspires me and what I Iove about this job.
The things we do in FCC to identify assets and politically exposed persons are often used as the genesis of other cases with even more serious crimes. FCC isn’t only about business and the economy; we’re helping people. That is what inspires me and what I Iove about this space.
Please check back for our next installment of “Who We Are” in which we introduce you to Leslie Bailey, Vice President, Financial Crime Compliance Strategy. Under Leslie’s leadership, her team has developed the ability to merge physical and digital identities to combat financial crimes in a more powerful way.
Learn more about these other financial crime compliance unsung heroes: