Home BancShares Reports On Its Risks Associated With Cuba-Related Banking Services

In September 2017, Conway, Arkansas-based Home BancShares (2018 assets approximately US$14 billion) through its Centennial Bank subsidiary purchased Pompano Beach, Florida-based Stonegate Bank.

In 2015, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury authorized Stonegate Bank (2017 assets approximately US$2.9 billion) to have an account with Republic of Cuba government-operated Banco Internacional de Comercia SA (BICSA).  

However, because the Obama Administration would not authorize BICSA under a general or specific license from the OFAC to have an account with Stonegate Bank, United States export-related funds have been sent and received through Panama City, Panama-based Multibank, which has extensive dealings with the Republic of Cuba.  

Without bilateral direct correspondent banking accounts, the payment process for funds from the United States to the Republic of Cuba and from the Republic of Cuba to the United States remains triangular rather than a straight line- which would be more efficient, more secure, more transparent, more timely (same day versus two or more days), and less costly.

2017 Annual Report Of Home BancShares

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Stonegate Bank – On September 26, 2017, the Company, completed the acquisition of all of the issued and outstanding shares of common stock of Stonegate Bank (“Stonegate”), and merged Stonegate into Centennial. The Company paid a purchase price to the Stonegate shareholders of approximately $792.4 million for the Stonegate acquisition. Under the terms of the merger agreement, shareholders of Stonegate received 30,863,658 shares of HBI common stock valued at approximately $742.3 million at the time of closing plus approximately $50.1 million in cash in exchange for all outstanding shares of Stonegate common stock. In addition, the holders of outstanding stock options of Stonegate received approximately $27.6 million in cash in connection with the cancellation of their options immediately before the acquisition closed, for a total transaction value of approximately $820.0 million.

Including the effects of the purchase accounting adjustments, as of acquisition date, Stonegate had approximately $2.89 billion in total assets, $2.37 billion in loans and $2.53 billion in customer deposits. Stonegate formerly operated its banking business from 24 locations in key Florida markets with significant presence in Broward and Sarasota counties.

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Other Banking Services

As a result of our acquisition of Stonegate in September 2017, we also offer credit cards to both consumers and businesses. Credit cards typically involve a higher degree of credit risk since outstanding balances are unsecured and repayment of such balances is often negatively impacted by a decline in economic conditions. Our credit cards offer a variety of benefits and features designed to meet the needs of our customer. In addition, our consumer credit cards can be used in Cuba.

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Our banking relationships with the Cuban government and Banco Internacional de Comercia, S.A. (“BICSA”) as a result of our Stonegate acquisition may increase our compliance risk and compliance costs.

U.S. persons, including U.S. banks, are restricted in their ability to establish relationships and engage in transactions with Cuba and Cuban persons pursuant to the existing U.S. embargo and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. However, we maintain a customer relationship to handle the accounts for Cuba’s diplomatic missions at the United Nations and for the Cuban Interests Section (now the Cuban Embassy) in Washington, D.C. This relationship was established in May 2015 pursuant to a special license granted to Stonegate Bank by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) in connection with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In July 2015, Stonegate Bank established a correspondent banking relationship with Banco Internacional de Comercio, S.A. (“BICSA”) in Havana, Cuba.

Cross-border correspondent banking relationships pose unique risks because they create situations in which a U.S. financial institution will be handling funds from a foreign financial institution whose customers may not be transparent to the U.S. financial institution. Moreover, Cuban financial institutions are not subject to the same or similar regulatory guidelines as U.S. banks; therefore, these foreign institutions may pose a higher money laundering risk to their respective U.S. bank correspondent(s). Investigations have determined that, in the past, foreign correspondent accounts have been used by drug traffickers and other criminal elements to launder funds. Shell companies are sometimes used in the layering process to hide the true ownership of accounts at foreign correspondent financial institutions. Because of the large amount of funds, multiple transactions, and the U.S. bank’s potential lack of familiarity with a foreign correspondent financial institution’s customer, criminals and terrorists can more easily conceal the source and use of illicit funds. Consequently, we may have a higher risk of noncompliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering (“BSA/AML”) rules due to its new correspondent banking relationship with BICSA and will likely need to more closely monitor transactions related to correspondent accounts in Cuba, potentially resulting in increased compliance costs. Our failure to strictly adhere to the terms and requirements of our OFAC license or our failure to adequately manage our BSA/AML compliance risk in light of our new correspondent banking relationship with BICSA could result in regulatory or other actions being taken against us, which could significantly increase our compliance costs and materially and adversely affect our results of operations.

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Acquisitions

Stonegate Bank

Through our acquisition and merger of Stonegate into Centennial, we maintain a customer relationship to handle the accounts for Cuba’s diplomatic missions at the United Nations and for the Cuban Interests Section (now the Cuban Embassy) in Washington, D.C. This relationship was established in May 2015 pursuant to a special license granted to Stonegate by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in connection with the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In July 2015, Stonegate Bank established a correspondent banking relationship with Banco Internacional de Comercio, S.A. in Havana, Cuba. As of December 31, 2017, this correspondent banking relationship does not have a material impact to the Company’s financial position and results of operations.

LINK to Home BancShares 2017 Annual Report

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