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Regulatory Efficiency and Effectiveness - 2007
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On July 19 the federal financial regulatory agencies issued the Interagency Statement on Enforcement of Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Requirements, setting forth the agencies' policy for enforcing specific anti-money laundering requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and aiming both to provide greater consistency among the agencies in enforcement decisions in BSA matters and to offer insight into the considerations that form the basis of those decisions.
On August 6 The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Department of Justice announced $65 million in joint and concurrent enforcement actions against American Express Bank International (AEBI) of Miami, Florida and American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., a money services business, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). FinCEN Director James H. Freis, Jr. said these actions "serve as another example of collaboration by federal agencies to apply a consistent approach to Bank Secrecy Act enforcement."
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced on August 8 the issuance of a final rule implementing a key provision of Section 312 of the USA PATRIOT Act, clarifying the risk-based procedures that U.S. financial institutions should use in tailoring their enhanced due diligence to assess the risks of some foreign banking relationships.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced on September 17 $31.6 million in joint and concurrent enforcement actions against Union Bank of California, N.A. (Union Bank) of San Francisco, California for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Union Bank consented to payment of the civil money penalties, which will be satisfied by a single payment of $10 million to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Union Bank also consented to issuance of a Cease and Desist Order by the OCC. The Department of Justice issued a Deferred Prosecution Agreement and an accompanying $21,600,000 forfeiture in connection with charges that Union Bank failed to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. "Today's action against Union Bank demonstrates the successful efforts of federal agencies to apply a coordinated and consistent approach to Bank Secrecy Act enforcement," said FinCEN Director James H. Freis, Jr.
U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral visited the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on September 27 to announce the launch of outreach materials for Money Services Businesses (MSBs) in seven (7) foreign languages. The outreach materials, which are already available in English, are now available in the following languages: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Arabic, Farsi, and Russian. Treasurer Cabral was joined by James H. Freis, Jr., Director of FinCEN, to discuss how these new materials will greatly enhance MSB outreach efforts to the many ethnic communities affected by Bank Secrecy Act requirements. Director Freis also announced the launch of a MSB Registration Renewal Calculator on the msb.gov website aimed at helping MSBs comply with their registration renewal requirements. These two measures are examples of FinCEN's continuing effort to make Bank Secrecy Act ("BSA") compliance more efficient and effective.
In a speech on October 9 to the Money Transmitter Regulators Association Annual Conference, Director James H. Freis, Jr., announced the availability of a new reference on common errors seen in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). The document, "Suggestions for Addressing Common Errors Noted in Suspicious Activity Reporting," is a compilation of useful information which FinCEN has discovered through its analysis of Money Services Business (MSB) Suspicious Activity Reports but will also be informative to other financial institutions. It provides tips for avoiding common mistakes and suggestions for establishing more efficient and effective anti-money laundering programs. FinCEN expects that SAR filers who are trained on the requirements would have available already the information necessary to complete the SAR properly, meaning that substantial improvements to the SAR filing could be made without significant additional efforts beyond those already undertaken for the investigation and decision to file a SAR. The activities and transactions reported through SARs provide law enforcement and regulatory authorities with useful information to detect and disrupt potentially illegal activities such as money laundering and terrorist financing.
In a speech to the Global Gaming Expo on November 14, Director James H. Freis, Jr. announced the release of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the gaming industry. As part of FinCENís commitment to provide feedback to its covered industries, the FAQs are intended to assist the gaming industry with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) compliance requirements. Effective June 30, 2007, Nevada Gaming Commission Regulation 6A was repealed. As a result, casinos formerly covered under Regulation 6A became responsible for complying with other requirements, including BSA currency transaction reporting and casino recordkeeping requirements. The FAQs address topics such as which gambling establishments are subject to the regulations; guidance on compliance with currency transaction reporting and suspicious activity reporting requirements; and clarification on the recordkeeping and compliance program requirements. While comprehensive, the list is not exhaustive and additional FAQs will be issued in the future.
FinCEN issued interpretive guidance in early December, regarding automatic teller machines (ATMs). This guidance addressed whether or not a non-bank owner-operator of an ATM that offers a limited range of services would be considered a money services business, and therefore subject to BSA reporting and recordkeeping requirements. An owner-operator of an ATM that only offered customers remote access to their accounts for balance inquiries or withdrawals would not be considered an MSB.