December 08, 2015

Forbes interviews John Bowman and Ed Wilson on loan obtained by San Bernardino shooter

2 min

On December 8, 2015, Forbes interviewed Venable partners John Bowman and Ed Wilson on a $28,500 loan obtained through an online lender by alleged San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook and his wife. The online lender, the third largest in the country, would not confirm the transaction due to privacy laws but said all loans are subject to identity verification and screening procedures required by law. Last week, Farook and his wife allegedly killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino in an apparent act of terrorism. The FBI is continuing to investigate.

"There are limits in terms of how much a lender can ask in terms of the purposes of the loan proceeds," said Bowman, commenting on the application process for a loan. "If you're a lender, the pieces of information that are going to be most relevant to you are: does the person have a job, do they have a good salary, and do they have a good credit score? Those questions are used by not only peer to peer lenders but banks, credit card issuers and other [financial entities]." While Farook appears to have met all the requirements for a loan, including stating a purpose for the loan, Bowman noted "that it is also not the obligation of the lender to follow up with a borrower to determine if the funds were actually used for their intended purpose."

"The fact that the loan goes to a bank account tells the lender that someone else had already done a customer identification program. There had been some due diligence," added Wilson. He noted that when opening a bank account, individuals are typically required to provide a license or passport, proof of address and proof of income. Wilson also said that most large financial institutions run their customer lists against the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list "if not every night, then several times a week."

To legally prevent Farook from obtaining the loan, Bowman and Wilson said he would have had to have been extremely candid about his intentions for it which would have resulted in the lender contacting law enforcement. "To cut to the chase: if this person who applied for this loan with this particular lender and in filling out that form actually said 'I am going to use the loan for terrorist purposes,'" said Bowman, "they wouldn't have gotten the loan."