Ex-Goldman banker Tim Leissner permanently barred over 1MDB scandal

The headquarters of Goldman Sachs in New York City. The settlement comes more than a year after Tim Leissner admitted bribing high-ranking officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi so that Goldman could win lucrative business from 1MDB.
The headquarters of Goldman Sachs in New York City. The settlement comes more than a year after Tim Leissner admitted bribing high-ranking officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi so that Goldman could win lucrative business from 1MDB.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP, NYTIMES) - US regulators have permanently barred a former Goldman Sachs executive from working in the securities industry after he pleaded guilty to helping orchestrate the looting of billions of dollars from Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

The settlement comes more than a year after Tim Leissner admitted bribing high-ranking officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi so that Goldman could win lucrative business from 1MDB in a scandal which rocked the Malaysian political scene and the giant Wall Street bank.

The ex-Goldman partner did not contest the penalty in reaching a civil settlement announced on Monday (Dec 16) by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The agreement does not impose any new monetary penalty above the US$43.7 million (S$59.2 milllion) that Leissner agreed to forfeit when he pleaded guilty to money laundering and foreign bribery charges for his role in a scheme to siphon most of the US$6.5 billion raised for the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, known as 1MDB.

The claims raised by the commission are largely similar to the accusations brought by prosecutors in Brooklyn, where Leissner pleaded guilty in August 2018. Prosecutors said Leissner, who is married to model and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons, helped loot funds from a series of bonds that Goldman Sachs helped the fund sell.

Federal authorities have that said Jho Low, a flamboyant Malaysian financier, was the principal architect of the scheme to bribe public officials and steal money from the fund to pay for the purchase of jewelry, a yacht, expensive real estate in New York and California and provide funding for movies such as "The Wolf of Wall Street."

The settlement with securities regulators said unnamed "senior executives" at Goldman knew Leissner did not tell the truth during an Oct 10, 2012, meeting when he was asked whether Low, whom Goldman's compliance department had declined several times to approve as a client, had any involvement in the bond deals. Prosecutors in charging documents have tended to avoid using the phrase "senior executives" to refer to others at Goldman who may have known about the bribery scheme.

 
 
 

The bank has said Leissner's conduct was not sanctioned or approved by his bosses.

"As we have previously said, Leissner has admitted lying to and deceiving the firm as part of his crimes," said Maeve DuVally, a spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.

A lawyer for Leissner did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for federal prosecutors in Brooklyn declined to comment.

Following his guilty plea in August, Leissner is scheduled to face sentencing on June 11 in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York.