Riggs National Corp., facing regulatory and political assault for dealings at its once-venerable embassy-banking division, agreed to sell itself to PNC Financial Services Group Inc. for $779 million in stock and cash.
The deal marks the fate of a storied institution whose roots stretch back 165 years. Known as the bank of U.S. presidents, it financed the Mexican-American War and the purchase of Alaska. Under Joe L. Allbritton, a Washington billionaire and [Bush family pal*] power broker whose family controlled Riggs, the bank cornered the market for diplomatic banking, servicing most of the embassies in the nation's capital.
But the diplomatic business, which became the bank's calling card, turned out to be its undoing. Regulators earlier this year fined Riggs $25 million, a near record, for a range of money-laundering violations related to its oversight of accounts held by diplomats and foreign leaders. And this week, a Senate panel blasted the bank for turning "a blind eye" to evidence of extensive corruption involving U.S. oil companies and the president of Equatorial Guinea. The bank allegedly also helped former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet hide millions of dollars from U.S. and European authorities.
May 13 : Federal banking agencies impose $25 million fine on Riggs for money-laundering violations related to accounts held by diplomats in Saudi Arabia.
For the uncle part of the story, unreported in the Journal, we rely instead on links provided by Holden at Atrios.
There we see that Uncle Jonathan Bush was President, Chief Executive Officer, and a Director of Riggs Bank.
*When George W. Bush's inaugural parade passed the Riggs branch on Pennsylvania Avenue, he spotted [Joe] Allbritton and said, "Hey Joe, how are you doing?"
Check this out too: "Inside safe deposit boxes at Riggs Bank is more than $710 million in cashier's checks that Riggs doesn't want. Neither does any other bank. The stash, once in checking accounts held by the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea, is likely to grow."