The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) recently complied with two important deadlines under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (“AML Act”) — issuing national priorities for AML and countering the financing of terrorism (“CFT”), and issuing an assessment on potential “no-action” letters. Both of these publications were due on June 30, 2021. This development prompted us
Assessment Gives “Thumbs Up” to No-Action Letters but Notes Logistical Challenges
As required by the Anti-Money Laundering Act (“AML Act”), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued on June 30, 2021 its 14-page assessment regarding the feasibility of FinCEN issuing so-called “no-action” letters to financial institutions (the “Assessment”). FinCEN issued this Assessment on the same day that it issued the first government-wide list of national priorities for anti-money laundering (“AML”) and countering the financing of terrorism (“CFT”), as we have blogged. In arguable contrast to the AML priorities, FinCEN’s Assessment is full of specific, concrete details and offers interesting insights into how no-action letters may (or may not) work in practice.
Ultimately, the Assessment posits that no-action letters are a desirable step, but that practical challenges remain – including sufficient funding for FinCEN. According to the Assessment, no-action letters will be the subject of future regulations promulgated by FinCEN. Although the details of a no-action letter process will be a debated topic, the Assessment gives reassurance that FinCEN takes the issue seriously and that no-action letters likely will occur in some form.
Continue Reading FinCEN Issues Assessment on Possible “No-Action” Letters for Industry
Breadth of List Undermines Usefulness to Industry
As required by the Anti-Money Laundering Act (“AML Act”), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued on June 30, 2021 the first government-wide list of priorities for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (“AML/CFT”) (the “Priorities”). The Priorities purport to identify and describe the most significant AML/CFT threats facing the United States. The Priorities have been much-anticipated because, under the AML Act, regulators will review and examine financial institutions in part according to how their AML/CFT compliance programs incorporate and further the Priorities, “as appropriate.”
Unfortunately, and as we will discuss, there is a strong argument that FinCEN has prioritized almost everything, and therefore nothing. …
Continue Reading FinCEN Identifies AML/CFT “Priorities” For Financial Institutions
Today we are very pleased to welcome guest blogger Tess Davis, who is the Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition. Tess, a lawyer and archaeologist by training, oversees the organization’s work to fight cultural racketeering worldwide, as well as its award-winning think tank in Washington. She has been a legal consultant for the U.S. and foreign governments and works with both the art world and law enforcement to keep looted antiquities off the market. She writes and speaks widely on these issues — having been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Foreign Policy, and top scholarly journals — and featured in documentaries in America and Europe. She teaches cultural heritage law at Johns Hopkins University, and is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2015, the Royal Government of Cambodia knighted Tess for her work to recover the country’s plundered treasures, awarding her the rank of Commander in the Royal Order of the Sahametrei.
We reached out to Tess because Congress passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA”) on January 1, 2021. This sprawling legislation in part applies the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) to antiquities dealers by defining them as “financial institutions” – and suggests that the BSA later may apply to the art trade as well by requiring a study on money laundering and the art trade. We have blogged repeatedly on the fascinating intersection between the art and antiquities industry and BSA/AML compliance and money laundering concerns. This also is a topic that has garnered significant media interest, including in a recent article in the New York Times. For ease of reference, the AMLA’s requirements for factors to be considered for forthcoming regulations on the antiquities trade, and for the factors relevant to the study on the art trade, are described here.
The Antiquities Coalition convened the Financial Crimes Task Force; their materials, including a detailed joint report, Reframing U.S. Policy on the Art Market: Recommendations for Combating Financial Crimes, are available here. Antiquities, art and money laundering also was the subject of a panel at PLI’s May 2021 Anti-Money Laundering Conference, at which Tess was a panelist.
This blog post again takes the form of a Q&A session, in which Tess responds to questions posed by Money Laundering Watch about potential AML regulations regarding the antiquities and art markets. We hope you enjoy this discussion on this important topic. – Peter Hardy and Alex Levy…
Continue Reading Congress Regulates the Antiquities Market – and Perhaps the Art Market – for AML Compliance: A Guest Blog.
As more states legalize cannabis to some degree, the resulting patchwork of laws becomes ever more difficult to navigate for financial institutions, regulators, entrepreneurs, legislators, journalists, and consumers. Some states continue to wrestle with legalization, while others have moved on to addressing labeling, marketing, and financial concerns.
Art & Antiquities; Beneficial Owners; Foreign Corruption — and More
We are really pleased to be moderating, once again, the Practising Law Institute’s 2021 Anti-Money Laundering Conference on May 11, 2021, starting at 9 a.m. This year’s conference again will be entirely virtual — but it will be as informative, interesting and timely as…
On April 12, 2021, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Board”), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), the National Credit Union Administration (“NCUA”) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) requesting comment on the extent to which the agencies’ previous guidance on model risk management supports banks’ compliance with Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA) and Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) regulations and Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC”) requirements.
The RFI asks for comments from interested parties on suggested changes to guidance or regulations, and whether aspects of the agencies’ approaches to BSA/AML and OFAC compliance are either working well, or could be improved. The agencies explained that the reason for the RFI is to further understand current bank practices, and determine whether additional explanation or clarification of their guidance may be helpful. Although the genesis of the RFI is not entirely clear, it appears that it was issued in response to certain financial institution inquiries or comments regarding how the maintenance of their BSA/AML compliance programs should incorporate principles set forth in earlier, more general regulatory guidance on model risk management for banks, which we describe below. Further, the RFI has not occurred in a vacuum, but rather has appeared in the midst of a major, ongoing overhaul of the BSA/AML legislative, regulatory and enforcement regime. Comments to the RFI must be received by June 11, 2021. …
Continue Reading Risk Management: Agencies Issue Request for Information on Intersection of Model Risk Management Guidance and BSA/AML Compliance
Eighth Blog Post in an Extended Series on Legislative Changes to the BSA/AML Regulatory Regime
As we have blogged, the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA”) contains major changes to the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”), coupled with other changes relating to money laundering, anti-money laundering (“AML”), counter-terrorism financing (“CTF”) and protecting the U.S. financial system against illicit foreign actors. In this post, we review several provisions of the AMLA section entitled “Modernizing the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism System.” These provisions signal potentially significant changes in the BSA reporting regime for suspicious activity and currency transactions – albeit in the future, after the performance of studies and reports which Congress has required regarding the effectiveness of Suspicious Activity Report (“SAR”) and Currency Transaction Report (“CTR”) filings.
These provisions of the AMLA require the Treasury Secretary to acquire a fuller picture of the reporting regime as it currently functions in regards to SAR and CTR filings. We repeatedly have blogged about the ongoing debate regarding the utility of SARs and other BSA reports versus the onus the system places on financial institutions (see, for example, here, here, here and here). The AMLA now creates the opportunity for the government to respond to that debate with a data-driven approach. The theme of these AMLA provisions is feedback – both internal and external – regarding how (and whether) SARs work. Notably, they also address the issue of whether the monetary filing thresholds for SARs (generally, $5,000) and CTRs ($10,000) should be increased.…
Much has occurred in the last two months regarding the relationship between financial institutions and Marijuana-Related Businesses, or MRBs. In this post, we discuss three major developments, all of which share a complex connection. First, the National Credit Union Administration (“NCUA”) recently pursued its first enforcement action against a credit union for Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) compliance failures when servicing MRBs. Second, two cannabis industry executives were convicted of bank fraud for allegedly tricking banks and other financial institutions into unwittingly extending financial services to their MRB. Third, and despite this enforcement drumbeat regarding MRBs, Congress has introduced again, with bi-partisan support, the SAFE Banking Act, which seeks to normalize the banking of cannabis by prohibiting federal bank regulators from taking certain actions against financial institutions servicing MRBs.
Continue Reading Banking and Cannabis Enforcement Round Up: NCUA Imposes First Penalty Relating to Cannabis Banking Services; Cannabis Industry Execs Convicted of Defrauding Banks into Providing Financial Services; Congress Re-Introduces the SAFE Banking Act
I am pleased to have been a guest on FTI‘s Fraud Eats Strategy podcast series, hosted by Scott Moritz. In an episode entitled How Transparent is the Corporate Transparency Act, we explore the cornerstone of the newly-passed Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”).
The CTA requires covered legal…