New Danske Bank CEO Carsten Egeriis told investors in a conference call that compliance costs at the bank have stabilized now that a forensic audit into a money laundering scandal involving its Estonia branch is complete.
The bank stated in its interim first-quarter report Wednesday that it completed its forensic audit into the Estonia matter in the fourth quarter of 2020, and the results were reported to relevant authorities. The audit has not been made public.
Egeriis, who had been Danske’s chief risk officer for the past four years, took over as CEO on April 19 when Chris Vogelzang resigned after being identified as a suspect in an investigation into money laundering at Dutch bank ABN AMRO. Egeriis told investors compliance would continue to be a top priority as he moves forward in the role.
“It’s critically important for us that we continue the commercial momentum we have, the cost trajectory that we have, as well as continuing to get compliance in control,” he said during an earnings call. “Those priorities absolutely continue—full focus on that.”
The bank reported better than expected profits for the first quarter, in part because of decreased compliance costs related to the Estonia issue. Operating expenses fell 2 percent in the first quarter to DKK 6.3 billion (U.S. $1.02 billion), while net profit came in at DKK 3.1 billion (U.S. $504 million).
It has taken more than five years for the bank to fully understand the scope of the damage done by the money laundering scandal at its Estonia branch.
Between February 2007 until the end of January 2016, Danske failed to spot approximately €200 billion (U.S. $227 billion) of dirty money that flowed through its Estonian subsidiary undetected. The funds came from countries including Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Russia.
In Wednesday’s report, Danske alluded to the potential of additional probes at the branch. Regulatory investigations by authorities in Estonia, Denmark, France, and the United States remain ongoing.
“We continue to fully cooperate with the authorities, which may require Danske Bank to undertake further internal investigation in 2021. The overall timing of the authorities’ investigations remains unknown and is not within Danske Bank’s control,” the report said.