A corporate law firm linked to former US Attorney General Eric Holder is tipped to be hired by Caribbean Community governments to lobby American commercial banks and lawmakers in a simmering row between banks in the region and counterparts in the United States.
Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne said at the weekend that a firm “connected to Mr. Eric Holder” is being considered to persuade mega American financial institutions like Bank of America to resume processing checks, wire transfers and other transactions from banks in the Caribbean after most were either cut off or warned about disconnection of ties last year.
The banks cited high risks in processing transactions from the region and have indicated that they are under increased scrutiny from federal agencies so they have severed ties with the region.
Browne called the termination of banking services by US institutions” an existential threat that could cripple the region.”
He said leaders who wrapped up a two-day meeting in Guyana at the weekend have approved a budget of $240,000 to pay the firm to work for the region in an ongoing dispute over alleged high risk banking transactions from domestically-owned banks in the Caribbean. The process is called de-risking.
Holder who met leaders on several occasions while he was attorney general up to 2015, returned to his previous law firm of Covington & Burling after leaving the Justice Department. The firm is known to serve Wall Street clients.
Browne said that the region has noted the fact that banks have stopped cutting off ties with the Caribbean apparently after being “issued certain guidelines for correspondent banks to deal with the issue of correspondent banking and to avert the type of willy nilly de-risking that we have seen in the past.”
He said the Caribbean Association of Indigenous Banks and other stakeholders will be asked to contribute to payment of the lobbying firm.
Meanwhile, the final communique of the summit devoted considerable space to the banking issue, saying leaders urged affected banks to ensure that they are fully compliant with rules pertaining to anti money laundering and anti terrorism rules to avoid problems.