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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FinCEN Seeks Input on Proposed Customer Due Diligence Program, Finalizes Electronic Filing Rule

Anti-Money Laundering

Financial Crimes

On February 29, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to obtain stakeholder input regarding a proposed customer due diligence regulation that would require covered financial institutions to institute defined programs to identify the real or beneficial owners of customer accounts. The proposed regulation is designed to enhance federal anti-money laundering and counterterrorism efforts. According to FinCEN, financial institutions are not addressing beneficial ownership in a uniform and consistent manner. As a result, FinCEN is beginning a regulatory process that could eventually require banks, broker-dealers, mutual funds, futures commission merchants, and introducing brokers in commodities to develop customer due diligence programs. The programs would include requirements to (i) conduct initial due diligence and verify customer identities at the time of account opening, (ii) understand the purpose and intended nature of the account, (iii) identify and verify all customers’ beneficial owners, and (iv) monitor the customer relationship and conduct additional due diligence as needed. In the ANPRM, FinCEN states that it will consider extending such a program in the future to cover all financial institutions currently subject to FinCEN’s anti-money laundering requirements, including casinos, money services businesses, nonbank mortgage lender and originators, and others. Consequently, in addition to input from the types of institutions that would be subject to an initial rulemaking, FinCEN is specifically requesting comments from these additional institutions that may later become subject to the rules. FinCEN is accepting comments on the ANPRM for sixty days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

On the same day, FinCEN published a final rule mandating electronic filing of nearly all Bank Secrecy Act filings. The rule takes effect July 1, 2012. Although it largely mirrors a September 2011 proposal, it was modified in response to comments received, including a change to provide certain limited hardship exemptions for institutions that cannot begin electronic filing on time.

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