offences in their countries. The jeopardy of the bank is that some of the foregoing political ofcials could
be untouchable political gures on whose its survival depends. Banks need to remain fully alert bearing
in mind that with globalised business environment in which they operate, circumstances can change
very rapidly. It would also be overly unnecessary to blame banks for failures in the regulatory system
beyond their control such as the global crisis – which they could not have foreseen or prevented. Finally,
this paper articulates the uid environment in which the modern bank operates and its attendant
Design/methodology/approach – The paper was written by the analysis of both primary and
secondary data sources focusing on vulnerability of banks in executing their mandate as nancial
institutions. The paper has also utilised case law on misfeasance of banks where courts have found
banks for misfeasance and literally not doing enough in execution of their obligations to prevent
nancial crimes. This paper has also utilised some of the data utilised by the author in writing his PhD
dissertation but done so in a distinctive manner to foster the objective of this paper. The author has
harnessed and evaluated the foregoing data sources and adapted them in different contexts to address
pertinent issues this paper was written on.
Findings – The ndings are not clear cut of whether banks qualify to be branded villains or heroes.
The ndings have demonstrated that the majority of banks are doing a plausible job to prevent money
laundering and prevention of terrorism. There are also discerning situations where banks have been
less valiant in prevention of crimes and in doing so they have put themselves in a negative spotlight.
The paper has utilised different data sources generated on the role of banks in providing frontline
services to the public and their failure to execute the foregoing mandate diligently.
Research limitations/implications – The limitation of the paper is that it would have been better
to evaluate the secondary data sources used in writing it by carrying out interviews on some issues it
hinges. Due to some practicalities, it was not possible to carry out interviews or to send out
questionnaires to banks and other nancial institutions. As such, some of the data sources used could
have been biased.
Practical implications – This paper is of signicant importance for banks, regulatory authorities,
governments and those with a stake in the way banks are regulated and governed. I presume the
foregoing stakeholder constituencies will nd it a worth read and interesting. The paper also
demonstrates that some the information written on banks in newspapers is not always true and urges
caution in utilising newspapers as a source of generating data. It also underscores the need for banks to
be more vigilant in execution of their mandate towards different stakeholder constituencies, so that they
are not inadvertently exploited for criminal purposes.
Social implications – The paper has far reaching implications for banks to be utilised in prevention
of crimes in executing their mandate cautiously. It is important that much as nancial institutions
should be utilised in the foregoing respect, they should not be constrained by over-regulation, as this
also means that they would pay dearly in compliance costs.
Originality/value – The originality of the paper is manifested that while it has relied heavily on
secondary and primary data sources, it was written in a distinctive way to foster the objectives of
writing it. The paper was also evaluated in the context of empirical evidence where banks have used the
inuence to prevent crimes or where they have been less vigilant in doing so and they have been
exposed to criminal exploitation. The foregoing experiences were evaluated carefully using reliable
data sources such as case law and recent legislation.
Keywords Banks as heroes, Banks as villians, Oversight institutions
Paper type Research paper
Banks and other nancial institutions are by law required to foster an environment of
normative anti-money laundering standards and ethical practices can ourish. This
environment is necessary to ensure that they are not exploited as vehicles to transmit