Remember the story of David versus Goliath? Well, The Andorra Hustle shows us what would have happened had Goliath won. Not just won, but if Goliath had grabbed David by the hair on his head, tossed him around like a rag doll, flung him bloodied and beaten to the ground, and then squashed him as though he were nothing more than an insignificant little ant.
In this power play, the part of David is played by the Banca Privada d’Andorra, one of the major financial institutions in the tiny, picturesque co-principality of Andorra, a nation nestled snuggly in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France.
“…on March 10, 2015, the big, bad, United States of America handed down…a Section 311 to the bank, creating instantaneous chaos…”
The Banca Privada d’Andorra, or BPA, wasn’t an especially extraordinary bank. The institution was content to dutifully service its clients and mind its own business within the world of international finance. Then, on March 10, 2015, the big, bad, United States of America handed down what is known as a Section 311 to the bank, creating instantaneous chaos and plunging the bank and several of its top employees into a nightmare from which they still have not recovered.
Contained within the USA Patriot Act, which was enacted in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a Section 311 is a rarely implemented measure intended to uncover and prosecute alleged instances of international financial terrorism. In doing so, Section 311 grants the director of something called FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a division of the US Treasury) the authority to carry out “special measures” on any foreign entity suspected of money laundering.
The Section 311 proclamation was the kiss of death for BPA. Customers flocked to the bank only to encounter limited access to their accounts, accounts were frozen, and the Andorran people were thrust into a state of uncertainty about their country’s financial health. To make matters worse, upper management at BPA couldn’t comprehend why they were being accused of money laundering in the first place; as far as they and their auditors could tell, all of BPA’s financial activity was on the level. What the hell was going on?
"…unquestionably equal parts fascinating and maddening."