US Federal Reserve bars Goldman Sachs executive from industry for role in 1MDB scandal

Key Points
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve announced Tuesday it had permanently barred Goldman Sachs executive Andrea Vella from the banking industry for his role in Malaysia's 1MDB scandal.
  • Vella, former co-head of Asia investment banking, failed to escalate Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho's involvement in 2012 and 2013 bond offerings by Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at his news conference following the two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on interest rate policy in Washington, January 29, 2020.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters

The U.S. Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that it permanently barred a former Goldman Sachs executive from the banking industry over his role in Malaysia's multi-billion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal.

Andrea Vella, who was co-head of Goldman's Asia investment bank in 2012 and 2013, failed to escalate information he had about Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho's involvement in three bond offerings that Goldman underwrote for Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, the regulator said.

Malaysian and U.S. authorities have charged Low in connection with the theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB, which was originally set up by former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak to fund infrastructure projects.

The Federal Reserve said that Vella did not flag Low's involvement despite knowing that Low was a "person of known concern" to Goldman Sachs.

"Vella was responsible for providing full and accurate information to (Goldman's) committees reviewing the complex financing transactions and appropriately supervising financing personnel working on the transactions," according to a statement released by the Federal Reserve.

Vella could not immediately be reached for comment. According to the statement from the Federal Reserve, Vella consented to the bar without admitting or denying any of the allegations made by the regulator.

A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs confirmed that Vella had left the firm in recent days after being on leave since October 2018.

The U.S. Justice Department says that $4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014.

Vella managed two former Goldman Sachs bankers, Timothy Leissner and Roger Ng, who were both indicted by U.S. prosecutors in November 2018 on charges related to their roles in securing Goldman as the underwriter for the three 1MDB bond offerings.

Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit $43.7 million. Ng pleaded not guilty to charges in May, and his case is currently pending in federal court in Brooklyn.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Goldman earned $600 million in fees for its work with 1MDB. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.

Goldman is in ongoing discussions with U.S. and Malaysian authorities over their investigations into what the bank knew about the transactions at the time.