The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued updated FAQs clarifying the regulations about people in the US sending electronic remittances to Cuba. This update is particularly timely given the recent devastating hurricane damage. John and Elliot review the key elements of the updates. They discuss the approved channels, the persons authorized to send and receive payments, and how banks and other service providers can meet their obligations under the rules.
John and Elliot discuss several topics from this week: a recent ProPublica article on human traffickers forcing victims into cyberscamming, recent releases from the US Treasury Department, and insights from the Missouri Bankers Association BSA/AML Conference.
The US House Financial Services Committee held a hearing this week on the availability of financial services in the Caribbean region. The hearing included testimony from Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, and from a panel of experts. John and Elliot discuss the challenges and possible solutions raised at the hearing, including the reduced availability of correspondent banking services, the potential impact of digital currencies, and several new legislative proposals.
A recent essay on Lawfare caught John and Elliot’s attention. The authors reviewed the costs and funding sources of the January 6th insurrection and paths to interdict financing of domestic terrorist activities. John and Elliot discuss the implications of the funding schemes used by domestic terrorists, the challenges presented to financial service providers in detecting their activities, and the importance of international cooperation on this issue.
The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report to Congress. The report focused on how the US Department of Justice is complying with its obligation to report on how Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) are being used by law enforcement. John and Elliot discuss the report, the value of better information on SAR use, and the challenges in gathering meaningful data and presenting it in an actionable format.
The Wolfsberg Group, an association of 13 global banks, this week issued a guidance document on requests for information (RFI). The focus of the guidance is best practices in correspondent banks using RFIs in transaction monitoring. John and Elliot discuss some of the issues raised in the guidance and the value of effective use of RFIs. They also talk about the importance of banks being prompt in their responses to RFIs.
The Federal Reserve has issued additional information for banking organizations about crypto-asset-related activities. It is contained in Supervisory Letter SR 22-6. The Letter reviews areas of risk for providers of these products. It also reminds organizations there are regulatory notice requirements they need to follow. John and Elliot discuss the risks identified by the Fed and how this Letter relates to a joint statement on crypto-asset policy issued by US regulators in late 2021. They also talk about the importance of having open communications with your bank regulators as you explore offering crypto-related services.
The US Department of Justice has announced that a federal grand jury has indicted representatives of Electronic Transactions Systems Corporation, a payment processor, for fraud and money laundering. The indictment alleges that during the multi-year scheme, the company defrauded 7,000 customers out of millions of dollars. John and Elliot discuss the indictment and the scope of the alleged fraud. They also chat about a letter from US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin, supporting the funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to modernize the IRS.
John and Elliot chat about an interesting Op/Ed piece that appeared in The Washington Post this week. The author, an expert in international law, examined the implications of designating Russia a State Sponsor of Terrorism. John and Elliot discuss the importance of understanding the impact of that designation and the potential unintended consequences. They also review the latest sanctions announced against Russian elites close to President Putin, including a new action targeting evasion of earlier sanctions.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recently issued updated Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach to the Real Estate Sector. The updated guidance focuses on the importance of member countries to bring the real estate sector into their money laundering/terrorist financing regimes. John and Elliot discuss the guidance, including the breadth of its coverage, the need for understanding and training of real estate professionals, and how the timing of the guidance intersects with FinCEN’s request for information about the sector.
FATF (the Financial Action Task Force) has issued a report: Partnering in the Fight Against Financial Crime – Data Protection, Technology and Private Sector Information Sharing. The report discusses the importance of balancing privacy with the need for financial services providers to share information to help stop the spread of financial crime. John and Elliot discuss the goals of the reported activities and the focus of several of the case studies set out in the report.
The US House of Representatives is acting on proposed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, including the ENABLERS Act. John and Elliot discuss the status of the amendments and what is likely to make it into the version that goes to the US Senate.
The presidency of the Financial Action Task Force has recently transferred to Singapore and the new president has issued the organizational priorities for the next two years. John and Elliot discuss the work of FATF and the priorities and how they integrate with activity going on throughout the financial crime prevention community.
A bi-partisan group from the US Congress has attached the ENABLERS Act to the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The ENABLERS Act would bring a number of groups and individuals who assist in anonymizing organizations and their transactions under the recordkeeping and recording regime of the Bank Secrecy Act. John and Elliot discuss the impact that passage of the Act would have on closing current holes in BSA coverage and the likelihood of passage of the Act, now that it is linked to adoption of the NDAA.
FinCEN has issued a Statement on Bank Secrecy Act Due Diligence for Independent ATM Owners or Operators, focusing on the analysis that financial service providers should use to make a risk based determination about offering services. John and Elliot discuss the statement and their views of why this topic received the attention of FinCEN given all of the initiatives it is working on at this time.
FinCEN has issued updated guidance on Elder Financial Exploitation (EFE). The new Advisory looks at the increasing volume of thefts and scams targeted at the elderly and includes both behavioral and financial red flags. John and Elliot discuss the growing problem of EFE, some of the key messages in the Advisory, and efforts by financial service providers to detect and deter these frauds and thefts.
This week the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin, updating its assessment of the terrorism threat to the US. In the bulletin DHS reaffirms that the country remains in a heightened threat environment. John and Elliot discuss the concerns raised by DHS following the recent mass shooting events, that some of the attackers have been motivated by violent extremist ideologies that are racially or ethnically motivated, and the international implications noted by DHS.
Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu recently spoke at the DC Blockchain Summit 2022 about the state of the virtual currency space. In his remarks he highlighted several areas of concern, in particular – the vulnerability of crypto hacks, the risk of loss contagion, and the need for clarity about the ownership of crypto assets. John and Elliot discuss each of these topics, and why members of the financial crime prevention community need to continue to grow their understanding of virtual currencies and assets and the risks they present.
This week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to President Biden about financial access for Caribbean nations and particularly the harmful phenomenon of bank de-risking. The letter recognizes that access to financial services is a key building block for creating and sustaining an effective economy. The letter references a recent report by the Atlantic Council. John and Elliot discuss the focus of the letter, how de-risking and financial access is a serious concern, not just for charities and non-profits, but for entire nations, and some of the solutions that can be instituted to reduce the impact of the problem.
The Tax Justice Network has released its Financial Secrecy Index 2022. The Index “identifies the world’s biggest suppliers of financial secrecy” with the US being number 1. John and Elliot discuss the findings in this year’s Index, the overall progress noted by the TJN, and the need for continued progress in reducing the availability of tax and secrecy havens around the world.
The UK has become a haven for rich Russians. The lax approach to regulation has allowed money laundering to flourish. Recent government action in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is making a difference, but won’t erase the longstanding relationships that foster financial crime. John and Elliot discuss the challenges presented by the facilitating behavior of gatekeeper professionals and the global nature of the issues in the UK.
Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Outreach Initiative – Cornerstone recently shared information about the rising level of organized retail crime (ORC) being perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations. This activity involves planned theft of retail goods for later sale through gray market channels. John and Elliot discuss the value of HSI outreach to the financial crime prevention community and some of the red flags for identifying ORC.
The International Consortium of Investigation Journalists (ICIJ) recently shared documents with The Irish Times about the Kinahan organized crime cartel. The Irish Times published an extended article about the actions of the cartel in moving to the UAE and taking advantage of its secrecy laws to avoid prosecution. John and Elliot discuss the recent US sanctions issued against Daniel Kinahan, FATF’s gray listing of the UAE, and the importance of financial transparency.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) recently issued guidance about kleptocracies and foreign corruption. The guidance includes insights into typologies and includes red flags. John and Elliot discuss the guidance, the global focus and nature of the problems identified in the guidance, and the value of the red flags as a training tool.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke recently at American University about digital assets. The speech looked at the intersection of innovation, policy and regulation. John and Elliot discuss key points in the speech including how innovation in the financial sector often outstrips policy and regulation and how Yellen’s remarks create a good framework for the discussions and activities in the digital asset space.
This week The Washington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published another segment of the Pandora Papers. This latest release focuses on registered agents and their role in representing companies In the United States. John and Elliot discuss the total lack of transparency of corporate ownership in many of states, weakness this creates in the financial crime prevention regime In the US, and ENABLERS Act which was introduced In Congress In October 2021.
FinCEN has released new Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) data. The data set covers the full years 2014 through 2021. The information looks at SARs filed by all of the required filers and breaks down the information in a number of ways. John and Elliot discuss some interesting nuggets from the release, speculate on how the data may be analyzed, and talk about finding ways to use the information to improve financial crime prevention programs.
This week the US Department of Justice indicated that it will begin directing prosecutors to “consider requiring” certification at the end of an enforcement action settlement that the “the company’s compliance program is reasonably designed and implemented to detect and prevent violations of the law and is functioning effectively.” Also this week, Chairwoman Maxine Waters of the US House Financial Services Committee issued a letter to trade associations representing numerous US businesses requesting detailed information on the actions that America’s financial institutions and businesses have taken to end their relationships and engagements in Russia and with businesses that support the Russian government. John and Elliot discuss the implications for CEOs and CCOs of the certification idea and how the trade associations may respond to Chairwoman Water’s request from information.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has issued a 2nd Draft Guidance Paper for consideration and agreement to public consultation for the Real Estate Sector. This latest guidance paper will update earlier guidance issued to the sector. John and Elliot discuss some aspects of the draft, including the limited understanding of participants in the sector of money laundering and terrorist financing risks, the large role that the sector plays in many national economies, and the tie in to the Advanced Notice Proposed Rulemaking for new real estate sector reporting requirements, issued by FinCEN in December 2021.
This week FinCEN issued an alert directing US financial institutions to increase their vigilance in watching for efforts to evade Russian related sanctions. The alert identifies several possible evasion typologies that may be used. Elliot sits down with Tim White, Special Advisor at AML RightSource and global sanctions expert to talk about the alert. Elliot and Tim discuss some of the implications for evasion through the use of virtual currency, and the importance of monitoring changes in transaction flows and volumes, and transactions from new sources. They also note that the alert has value for the financial crime prevention community beyond the US.
This week the US Department of Justice announced the formation of Task Force KleptoCapture. The Task Force is an “interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures” that have been and may be issued. John and Elliot talk about the focus of the new Task Force – targeting “Russian officials, government-aligned elites, and those who aid or conceal their unlawful conduct;” and how it will combat unlawful efforts to circumvent the sanctions programs.
As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nations around the world have put sanctions in place against Russia, Russian companies, and Russian nationals. John sits down with Tim White, Special Advisor at AML RightSource and global sanctions expert to discuss the severity and near term impact of the sanctions announced in the last several days, what sanctions compliance teams should be looking at to comply with these programs, and what other actions may be coming in the near-term. Learn more about the sanctions here -https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0608
FinCEN has published a Fact Sheet on the Rapid Response Program. This program is a cooperative effort with federal law enforcement agencies and many of FinCEN’s global counterpart FIUs to assist fraud victims in attempting to recover stolen funds. John and Elliot discuss the key elements of the program, how to trigger the RRP after a fraud event, and the value of the RRP for financial service providers as a tool to assist their customers who become victims of fraud.
In January the US Department of Justice issued its National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. This week, a House of Representatives Committee held a hearing on Data Challenges Impacting Human Trafficking Research and Development of Anti-Trafficking Technological Tools. These two events highlight the increasing US national focus on human trafficking. John and Elliot discuss how the data issues noted at the hearing and the efforts identified in the DOJ Strategy impact the efforts of law enforcement and the financial crime compliance community to identify, disrupt, and stop human trafficking.
This week Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson spoke with leaders of NGOs active in Afghanistan. The focus of the conversation was the newly issued FAQs, which are designed to bring more clarity about food and agricultural shipments, support to public hospitals, salary support for teachers and healthcare workers, support for municipal water systems, bank transactions, and cash shipments. The FAQs add to the information issued in December 2021 Fact Sheet Provision of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan and Support for the Afghan People. John and Elliot discuss how the overall issue of de-risking is brought into clear relief in situations such as Afghanistan and how the FAQs can help financial service providers and NGOs navigate the sanctions against the Taliban and bring humanitarian support to the Afghan people.
This week Transparency International released its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The CPI uses a number of criteria to evaluate the status of corruption in 180 countries. For 2021 the global average remained unchanged at 43 on a 100 point scale. John and Elliot discuss some of the findings in the CPI and the links between corruption, deterioration in human rights, the rise of authoritarianism, and the continuing assault on democracy.
This week the US Treasury issued its Year in Review: Treasury’s Top Accomplishments During Year One of the Biden-Harris Administration. The release looks at a broad set of areas for which the Department is responsible. John and Elliot discuss items in the National Security and Protecting the Financial System sections of the release.
This week FinCEN’s Acting Director, Him Das, delivered remarks at the ABA/ABA Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference. In the speech, he spoke about the shifts in emphasis of Bank Secrecy Act regulations over the past 30-plus years. John and Elliot discuss those shifts and look at the three new areas of focus outlined in Acting Director Das’s remarks: new threats, new innovations, and new partnerships.
This week was the 1st anniversary of the insurrection at the US Capitol. John and Elliot focus their conversation on what the financial crime compliance community can do to identify the monetary footprint of potential domestic terrorist acts. They discuss the recent statements by the President, Vice President, and the Attorney General and urge listeners to report transaction activity that fits the patterns of possible terrorist activity.
This episode originally aired on October 15th, 2021. In August 2021, Global Financial Integrity published Acres of Money Laundering – Why U.S. Real Estate is a Kleptocrat’s Dream. The report compares the real estate money laundering regulations across the G7 countries. John and Elliot discuss the report’s findings on the use of the US commercial real estate market to launder funds and the roles played in the transactions by various gatekeepers. They also call out some of the key recommendations in the report. A link to the report -https://gfintegrity.org/report/acres-of-money-laundering-why-u-s-real-estate-is-a-kleptocrats-dream/ Here's a great article that discusses real estate and the need for real reforms in Australian AML regulations - https://www.amlrightsource.com/news/real-estate-and-the-need-for-real-reforms-in-australian-aml-regulations
The FATF has issued it’s second 12-month review of its revised standards for virtual assets and virtual asset providers. John Byrne, Executive Vice President and Elliot Berman, Creative Director of the AML RightSource staff, sit down and discuss the key elements of the review and its implications for global compliance in this emerging area.
This week FinCEN issued an Request for Information and Comment (RFI) on a Review of Bank Secrecy Act Regulations and Guidance. The RFI asks for comments ways to streamline, modernize, and update the AML/CFT regime of the United States. John and Elliot discuss some key questions in the RFI and talk about the importance of making comments on this other regulatory proposals.
This week FinCEN issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Anti-Money Laundering Regulations for Real Estate Transactions and a Notice Proposed Rulemaking on Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Requirements. The ANPRM asks for comments on how to bring US real estate transactions more fully under BSA recordkeeping and reporting requirements. The Proposal on Beneficial Ownership Information asks for comments on a rule requiring reporting by various entities of their beneficial owners. John and Elliot discuss some key points of both issuances and talk about the importance of making comments on these other regulatory proposals.
Last week the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a Joint Statement on Crypto-Asset Policy Sprint Initiative and Next Steps. The joint statement highlights the current activity by the agencies to understand the impact of crypto-assets on insured depository institutions and the areas the agencies are reviewing for possible future guidance or regulation. John and Elliot discuss some of the key elements of the report, including the need for a common understanding of what crypto-assets are and how they may impact bank capital.
This episode previously aired October, 8th 2021. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), The Washington Post and many other news organizations around the world have published a series of stories based on nearly 12 million records obtained by the ICIJ – known as the Pandora Papers - which shed light on how heads of state, the super-rich, and criminals have hidden their assets. John and Elliot look at some of the key findings by the ICIJ, The Post and other media outlets and discuss the implications for oversight and regulation going forward.
This week the IRS published the IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report. IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS. The report provides detailed information about enforcement actions and partnerships from IRS-CI. John and Elliot discuss some of the highlights in the report, including the international scope of IRS-CI investigations and the breadth of its activities outside of tax enforcement, including in the cybercrime space.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Department of the Treasury (“OFAC”), the New York State Department of Financial Services, and the Federal Reserve recently issued a series of enforcement actions against Mashreqbank PSC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The action all related to failures by the Bank to comply with certain sanction programs. John and Elliot discuss the orders, the specific violations, and the overall usefulness of enforcement actions.
INTERPOL has released its latest survey of member countries – Assessing Crimes Against Cultural Property 2020. The report discusses the INTERPOL Stolen Works of Art Database and the recently release ID-Art mobile application. John and Elliot discuss the increases in cultural crimes during 2020 and the challenges faced by countries around the globe as they work to reduce illicit excavations and theft of assets.
The Financial Action Task Force held its most recent Plenary last week. The delegates completed work on a number key initiatives – updated guidance for a risk-based approach to virtual assets and virtual assets service providers, and a final report on a survey on implementation of standards on cross-border payments. John and Elliot discuss the outcomes of the Plenary and what it means for the financial crime compliance community.
The Biden Administration and the Treasury Department have unveiled a proposal to improve tax fairness and compliance. The proposal seeks to enhance tax reporting by authorizing the IRS to require financial institutions to report two additional items of information on its customers: the total amount of funds deposited into the account and the total amount withdrawn over the course of a year. John and Elliot discuss the implications of the proposal and its possible impact on financial service company’s compliance activities.