Sunday, October 25, 2020

Oopsie: "Big banks entrusted money to GardaWorld. It secretly lost track of millions."

 From the Tampa Bay Times, October 18:

Brian Newell had been a manager at one of GardaWorld’s armored truck branches for about a year when a high-ranking supervisor called in 2018 with a bizarre order: Load all the coins stored at his branch in Connecticut onto a truck bound for Massachusetts.

Auditors from Bank of America were coming to Garda’s Dedham, Mass., branch to count money that Garda was being paid to protect.

And some of it was missing.

Newell’s Stratford, Conn., branch was relatively small. It held about $20,000 in coins belonging to Bank of America and two other banks, Newell said in an interview. He sent it all.

A few days later, Newell said, he learned it hadn’t been enough.

The shortage was so large, other New England branches had been told to send money as well.

As Garda’s armored trucks became ubiquitous on American roads, the international security contractor also moved into the little-known but growing business of storing money for U.S. banks. It took just eight years for Garda to become the industry leader, holding money for some of the largest banks in the world.

Behind that spectacular growth is an untold story of deception.

A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that Garda lost track of millions of dollars inside its vaults, then concealed the missing money from the banks that were its clients.

Court records and interviews depict some of the vaults as chaotic places where employees routinely ignored protocol and lost money. Some were rife with unsolved thefts and lacked basic safeguards like high-quality security cameras.

Garda sends banks a daily accounting of their balance in each vault. But as cash went missing, some branches kept reporting that the money was there, the Times found.

High-level Garda executives became aware of the discrepancies as early as 2014, a company document obtained by the Times shows. They set out to tally how much was missing and estimated roughly $9 million, according to the document.

It’s not clear how Garda responded. But six former Garda employees confirmed to the Times that Garda’s vaults were missing money in later years.

In 2015, emails show that Garda employees discussed how to keep TD Bank from learning that a single branch couldn’t find $924,000 of the bank’s coins.

In 2017 and 2018, employees in St. Louis repeatedly stalled bank auditors in a conference room while workers scrambled to move boxes of quarters and dimes — each containing hundreds of dollars — from one bank’s account to another, according to Jammie Bolton, the branch’s manager at the time.

Auditors were then shown the amount they expected. But they were unknowingly looking at another bank’s money, he said.

“They would pretty much bamboozle the auditors, when in fact they have no clue where the money is,” said Newell, who ran the Stratford branch. He said Garda terminated him in 2019 after he complained about safety problems.

“I don’t know how they have not gotten caught,” he added.

Garda did not agree to interview requests for this story. In a statement to the Times last month, the company said it handles about $8 billion a day for 8,000 clients at more than 75 vaults. It said it has “industry-leading controls in place to monitor the constant movement of our clients’ money.” The company added that the banks’ assets are never at risk because the money is insured.

“Any discrepancies detected are immediately investigated, reported and resolved,” the statement continued. “Inventory reconciliation is normal course of business for any cash vault operation.”

When the Times sent the company a detailed summary of its reporting, Garda did not respond.

Garda’s U.S. operation doesn’t publish a client list. But the Times determined it has held money for at least five of the nation’s 10 largest banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank and TD Bank....


 Also at the Tampa Bay Times, Why Do GardaWorld's Trucks Keep Crashing?