Exclusive: Amid U.S. probes, Caesars poaches top money laundering expert

Tue Feb 3, 2015 11:38am EST
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By Brett Wolf

(Reuters) - Caesars Entertainment Corp (CZR.O: Quote), under investigation by the U.S. Treasury and a federal grand jury over alleged failures to comply with anti-money laundering law, has hired away Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT.N: Quote) top expert.

Caesars, whose operations include the Caesars Palace and Flamingo casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, hired Benjamin Floyd for a senior vice president position dedicated to anti-money laundering, or AML, compliance, a casino spokesman confirmed. Floyd started his new job last month.

"Ben will be dedicated solely to focusing on our AML efforts going forward," Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said in a statement to Reuters. "We are very confident (his) AML experience with Wal-Mart qualifies him for his new role with us."

Floyd, an experienced compliance specialist with a Harvard degree, did not respond to an online request for comment.

The Las Vegas-based company's decision to hire a high-profile, outside anti-money laundering expert, instead of promoting from within, was "outside the norm" for a casino company, said a gaming industry insider who asked not to be named because he consults for Las Vegas casinos. It appeared aimed at demonstrating a push to instill a "culture of compliance," something regulators of late have said is important, the source said.

The source said the move also appeared aimed at mitigating any possible civil or criminal penalties that could emerge as a result of the Treasury and grand jury probes, the source said.

Poaching top anti-money laundering talent, both from other businesses and from the government, has become commonplace. The federal government has cracked down on financial institutions that fail to meet their obligations to police transactions for financial crime and sanctions violations. With penalties running into the billions of dollars, banks have led what has increasingly become a bidding war for top experts, with some hires demanding salaries in excess of $1 million.

The new job at Caesars has landed Floyd at the center of a regulatory storm.   Continued...

Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, is seen in a file picture taken July 14, 2004. REUTERS/Ethan Miller/Files