Prepared Remarks of FinCEN Director Kenneth A. Blanco, delivered virtually at the Florida International Bankers Association AML Compliance Conference




Kenneth A. Blanco
Prepared Statement
Florida International Bankers Association
AML Compliance Conference
March 22, 2021

Good afternoon, everyone.  Buenas tardes a todos.  I hope you, your families, and those in your lives are well.  

It is great to be here today with all of you, albeit virtually.  It is remarkable to think that just over a year ago I was preparing to travel from Washington, D.C. to Miami to join you in-person for this event.  My flights were booked and accommodations set.  David was adamant the event would occur.  

Obviously the 2020 FIBA event was postponed, as were so many events in our lives last year – both big and small.  And as much as I wish I were in my hometown of Miami then and now to be with all of you, I am grateful for this opportunity and truly pleased you and so many others have found ways to continue these types of incredibly valuable conversations.

Soon you will hear from FinCEN’s new Associate Director for Enforcement, and my longtime friend and colleague, Alessio Evangelista, but I want to take a few minutes this afternoon to share some of my perspectives on a topic that I know is at the forefront of everyone’s mind – the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, or AML Act.

The AML Act, which includes the Corporate Transparency Act, or CTA, is a landmark piece of legislation that will bolster the United States’ national security and help better protect the communities and people of this great country.  It represents the greatest addition to the AML regime since the USA PATRIOT Act.  

Because of that, the timely and effective implementation of the AML Act is FinCEN’s number one priority, and we are committed to its success.  We also are well underway.

Numerous provisions of the AML Act involve initiatives that FinCEN has been undertaking for years on innovation, regulatory reform, and industry engagement, including through the Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group, or BSAAG, and the FinCEN Exchange Program.

Earlier this month, in furtherance of the AML Act, FinCEN issued a Notice informing financial institutions about illicit activity related to trade in antiquities and art, and providing specific instructions for filing related Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).  The information you provide will help to inform FinCEN’s rulemaking efforts in extending AML requirements to dealers in antiquities, and will also inform the study of the facilitation of money laundering and the financing of terrorism through the trade in works of art that the AML Act requires.

We are also moving forward on all of the other initiatives required by the AML Act.  One example that I know you are all interested in, we will issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or ANPRM, with respect to the implementation of the beneficial ownership reporting requirements of the CTA.  We could not be more excited about the beginning of this rulemaking process.  

At the same time, we will be taking the steps to ensure that the beneficial ownership information that FinCEN collects, stores, and protects under this rule will generate a highly useful IT database system for our stakeholders.  We have a project team dedicated to the development of this IT database system, which includes enforcement, liaison, policy, technology, information security, and legal experts to make sure that decisions about structure and functionality are made in the most informed and efficient manner possible.  We are in the process of developing the use and confidentiality protocols that will control access to that IT database system.  

All of these are separate projects, but as you can see they all rely on each other, so we have to take them all on at once.  As with our upcoming ANPRM, we will be soliciting public written comment at intervals on different aspects of this work, and we urge you to comment in writing – fully and candidly.

The AML Act included many provisions demonstrating Congress’ belief—which we wholeheartedly embrace—that improving feedback loops between financial institutions, FinCEN, and law enforcement has the potential to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the AML regime.  We are working hard with our law enforcement partners, BSAAG, and others to implement this vision effectively.

While implementation of the AML Act is well underway, there is still much to do.  This is a sweeping and historic piece of legislation that will take time and significant resources to execute fully.  

This is an extremely important time in FinCEN’s history and its role in the strengthening of our national security through our anti-money laundering system and structure.

And, importantly, we will continue working closely with a diverse group of stakeholders —industry, law enforcement, the public, and others—to ensure we consider all perspectives as we advance our Congressionally-mandated rulemaking efforts to protect the American people.

This is where you come in.  This is where your voice, your experiences, and your thoughts truly matter.  

We need the financial industry’s perspectives and insights to help inform our rulemaking.  We need your feedback during the notice and comment periods accompanying our ANPRMs and Notices of Proposed Rulemaking.  I challenge and encourage all of you to read through our rulemakings and carefully think through the content.  Use your background, expertise, and knowledge to contribute, but think big and holistically.  This is an amazing opportunity for all of us, and it’s larger than a single bureau or financial institution or company.

We review and consider every comment we receive to ensure our rules are effective and clear.  So I ask you today to do your part and participate in the discussion.  Help us shape the rules of the road that will govern your industry and serve to protect the communities and people of this country.  We want to hear from everyone, especially the small business community, to ensure everyone subject to the AML Act’s requirements has a voice.

At the end of the day, we want practical solutions to a number of challenging problems.  We want to be effective and efficient, to confront and address risk, to prioritize, to protect our national security, our families, and our communities. 

Again, I am excited about the important work that is already well underway and I look forward to working with all of you as we move forward.  I am also confident we will succeed, with your help and your insights.

With that, I want to thank everyone for participating in this event, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the conference.  Muchas gracias.