23 June 2006

SWIFT statement on compliance policy

Following recent press coverage, Chairman, Deputy Chairman and CEO provide statement to SWIFT community

To the SWIFT community:

There is an article in the June 23 edition of New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other US newspapers on terrorism investigations and the role of SWIFT. Let us begin by underscoring SWIFT’s commitment to the highest standards of integrity, confidentiality and availability of the messaging data we transmit on behalf of our members and users.

As you may know from the User Handbook and swift.com, SWIFT has a longstanding history, beginning in the 1990s, of cooperating with authorities such as central banks, treasury departments, law enforcement agencies and international organisations such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in their efforts to prevent misuse of the financial system. Our members support this policy.

Statement on Compliance by SWIFT


SWIFT is the industry owned cooperative supplying secure, standardised messaging services and interface software to over 7,800 financial institutions worldwide. SWIFT is solely a messaging intermediary for transmitting secure and confidential financial messages between financial institutions. SWIFT is not a bank, nor does it hold accounts of any customers.

SWIFT takes its role as a key infrastructure of the international financial system very seriously and cooperates with authorities to prevent illegal uses of the international financial system. Where required, SWIFT has to comply with valid subpoenas. SWIFT’s compliance policy is published on www.swift.com.

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, SWIFT responded to compulsory subpoenas for limited sets of data from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Department of the Treasury. Our fundamental principle has been to preserve the confidentiality of our users’ data while complying with the lawful obligations in countries where we operate. Striking that balance has guided SWIFT through this process with the United States Department of the Treasury.

SWIFT negotiated with the U.S. Treasury over the scope and oversight of the subpoenas. Through this process, SWIFT received significant protections and assurances as to the purpose, confidentiality, oversight and control of the limited sets of data produced under the subpoenas. Independent audit controls provide additional assurance that these protections are fully complied with.

All of these actions have been undertaken with advice from international and U.S. legal counsel and following our longstanding procedures on compliance, established by our Board.

SWIFT is overseen by a senior committee drawn from the G-10 central banks and has informed them of this matter.

SWIFT values the trust that our members have placed in us for more than 30 years and we will continue to work vigorously to protect and maintain that confidence.

What we have written should give our community a better sense of how seriously SWIFT takes its responsibilities and how we have tried to deal with these matters in the most professional manner. The SWIFT Board and Executive have done their utmost to get the right balance in fulfilling their obligations to the authorities in a manner protective of the interests of the company and its members.

Leonard H. Schrank, CEO, SWIFT
Yawar Shah, Chairman of the Board, SWIFT
Stephan Zimmermann, Deputy Chairman, SWIFT

Media representatives can contact SWIFT’s press office at:

  • Europe: +32-2-655-3740 and +32-2-655-3243
  • US: c/o The Glover Park Group +1-202-337-0808 and +1-202-295-0171

More information