The Importance of Adverse Media Screening in Due Diligence.

16.05.22

Adverse media screening is an essential part of due diligence for financial institutions and other organizations. This process helps to ensure that clients, partners, and business associates have a good reputation and do not pose a risk to the organization.

What is Adverse Media Screening?

Adverse media screening, also known as negative news or bad press screening, is the process of identifying any potential risk or reputational threat to an individual or organization by reviewing news articles, press releases, and other relevant publicly available information. In today’s digital age, this data can be found in vast quantities and from various sources, making the process of adverse media screening both time-consuming, complex and not trustworthy. However, Anti-money laundering (AML) procedures can be very useful to identify possible financial crimes or illicit activities.

Why is Adverse Media Screening important?

Adverse media screening is extremely important because it helps to mitigate the risk of doing business with individuals or organizations that have a history of negative events or behaviors. This information can also be used to make informed decisions about business relationships and to take necessary precautions to protect the organization’s assets and reputation. As part of their AML compliance efforts, financial institutions and other regulated entities are required to conduct ongoing due diligence and monitoring of their customers; in addition to identifying and flagging potential high-risk customers, negative news can also be used to flag potentially dangerous transactions. As a matter of fact, failing to conduct adequate adverse media screening can have serious outcomes. Individuals and organizations may be at risk of reputational damage, regulatory action, and even legal repercussions.

What are the Challenges of Adverse Media Screening?

Finding a trustworthy source can be challenging, especially when dealing with negative media or news reports. It is important to recognize that negative news alone is not sufficient to report suspicious activity or take adverse action against a customer, so additional due diligence is required. Financial Intermediaries who don’t use a specific database are often unable to oversight Internet-based, publicly available content, therefore it can’t be easily determined whether the results presented are the most accurate, relevant, appropriate, or complete.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the difficulty of evaluating a source’s trustworthiness, including:

  • Language, as the news outlet or website can be presented in a foreign language which makes it more complicated to evaluate the credibility of the information;
  • Media Type, as it could be an informal outlet (e.g. blogs) which usually doesn’t go through careful and thorough editorial oversight and fact-checking;
  • Veracity, as the information could have been entirely fabricated or manipulated.

In order to mitigate such difficulties, financial institutions and other regulated entities rely on a combination of:

  • Trustworthy sources and information providers specializing in Adverse Media screenings;
  • Crosschecking multiple outlets to attentively validate the information;
  • Internal or external experts to assess the credibility of foreign-language sources;
  • Machine learning and natural language processing to automate the verification of the source’s authenticity.

It should be pointed out, though, that despite the combined effort of such assets, the underlying risk of bumping into unreliable sources while going through AML procedures remains substantial.

The benefits of using a specialized database for Adverse Media Screening

Utilizing a specialized database for adverse media screening makes the process much easier and more efficient. These databases are constantly updated with the latest information and provide a comprehensive view of an individual or organization’s background. These databases are designed specifically for the purpose of adverse media screening and make it easier to identify potential risks. Specialized databases use advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to search through vast amounts of data, categorizing and analyzing information in real-time. They are able to scan news articles, press releases and other publicly available information to identify any potential risks. This information is then curated by compliance experts and data analysts, and subsequently organized and presented in an easy-to-use format, allowing users to quickly and easily identify potential threats.

By using such a tool, users can access an immense amount of information regarding individuals or organizations in a matter of minutes and dramatically increase accuracy. The algorithms used by specialized databases are designed to identify potential risks that may be missed by manual screening processes, protecting their reputation and avoiding negative consequences.

Due Diligence challenges: Politically Exposed Persons

Pinpointing, examining and efficiently evaluating PEPs is a fundament part of the due diligence process.

The term «politically exposed persons (PEPs)» refers to individuals who have or have had prominent public functions and are at higher risk of engaging in financial crime. PEPs associated with negative news or adverse media need to be treated with extra care and undergo additional due diligence, such as:

  • Risk assessment – regulated entities and financial institutions should conduct such assessments to determine the level of risk associated with the PEPs and tailor the AML procedures accordingly;
  • Enhanced Customer Due Diligence (EDD) a more in-depth approach should be adopted in addition to standard customer due diligence. To verify the legitimacy of their financial activities, additional documentation and information may be obtained, such as their source of wealth and sources of funds.
  • Monitoring – PEPs should be subject to ongoing monitoring to detect any suspicious activity or changes in their circumstances that may indicate an increased risk. This could include running regular adverse media searches to detect negative news or other information that may indicate illicit activities;
  • Reporting – If the negative news or adverse media is related to illegal activities, the information should be reported to the relevant authorities.

Nevertheless, PEPs shouldn’t be denied service outright just because they are connected to negative news, as this does not necessarily indicate illegal activities. Caution, adequate information, specialized databases and enhanced due diligence should always be conducted before making a decision.

AM Screening in a nutshell

Adverse media screening is an essential part of due diligence for financial institutions and other organizations. This process helps to ensure that clients, partners, and business associates have a good reputation and do not pose a threat to the integrity of the organization. By utilizing a specialized database for adverse media screening and understanding the process, organizations can make informed decisions and protect their assets and reputation.

For a more in-depth understanding of the adverse media screening process, we recommend reviewing «The Wolfsberg Group Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Negative News Screening» that you can find here.

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