At risk of being fined for individual acts of illegal trades or speculation, the biggest banks are deploying surveillance tactics not far off from ones used by the government in the war on terrorism.
Every move bank employees make is likely being monitored by former military intelligence or CIA and GCHQ members, or even computer algorithms, according to a Bloomberg report based on interviews with“more than a dozen recruiters, bank executives and compliance officers.”
HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and JP Morgan Chase & Co. were listed among the too-big-to-fail banks monitoring everything from cigarette breaks to text message metadata. In a January interview, Deutsche Bank Co-Chief Executive Officer John Cryan told Bloomberg the business of banking was being balanced with new policing duties necessary for preventing heavy regulatory fines.
“We want to be able to identify any potential issues before they turn into anything troubling,” Bryon Linnehan, a veteran military intelligence officer who honed his skills in Iraq for two years before joining Barclays last May, told Bloomberg.
Last year, Barclays was fined $2.2 billion for its role in the Libor scandal, where six banks manipulated foreign exchange rates. Total fines for all the institutions involved amounted to nearly $6 billion.
Chris Mathers, a former Canadian police officer turned bank consultant, sees “the regulator” as “the biggest threat to banks today, the absolute biggest threat,” according to Bloomberg.
The surveillance levied against bank employees can be comprehensive, including monitoring behavioral patterns both online and off. Web browsing history, especially to gambling sites or others that pay out for accurate event predicting — also known as spread-betting — can prompt further investigation just as easily as an employee’s movements to certain parts of the office building. Vacation frequency, and even too much persistent financial success, can also raise suspicions.
“Military-intelligence people are used to parsing partial bits of data from communications, from behaviors, and putting those together in a way that would predict the next terrorist attack or some other type of much more horrible thing than we’re dealing with,” Ben Bair, global head of whistleblowing and investigations at Barclays in London, told Bloomberg. “And that’s what we need to take surveillance to the next level.”
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