NYSE-traded Western Union may not fit the mold as an archetypical fintech company, but its stock has benefitted from investor enthusiasm for fintech stories. In 2016, WU gained more than 30% as investors looked for publicly-traded opportunities to surf the venture wave. Corporate executives amplified the view. The firm announced, for instance, that it was investing heavily in blockchain technologies. But Western Union was caught inside its own buzz by an outsized $586 million fine for abetting financial crime. Among other problems, the company ignored agents who structured transactions to avoid regulatory oversight. Western Union’s stock price has now collapsed 8% in January trading. The case study is useful because the cash-transfer giant is being held accountable for compliance practices, not direct actions. In our experience, that point is lost on many fintech companies. ■
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