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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Senate Subcommittee Explores Money Laundering Vulnerabilities at Global Institutions

Anti-Money Laundering Bank Secrecy Act Bank Compliance

Financial Crimes

On July 17, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, held a hearing to review money laundering and terrorist financing vulnerabilities that can emerge from certain international banking activities. In connection with the hearing, the Subcommittee released a report about its investigation into past money laundering and terrorist financing compliance failures at one multinational financial institution. The report notes that despite congressional efforts to strengthen anti-money laundering laws (AML), and financial institutions’ diligence in bolstering AML controls, money laundering risks associated with correspondent banking persist. Using the investigation and its findings as a case study, the report reiterates that effective AML compliance programs at U.S. banks should include written standards, sufficient and knowledgeable staff, effective training, and a positive compliance culture. With regard to specific issues that U.S. banks might face with regard to correspondent banking, the report recommends that U.S. banks implement programs that effectively (i) screen high-risk affiliates, (ii) prevent circumvention of OFAC prohibitions, (iii) avoid providing U.S. correspondent services to banks with links to terrorism, (iv) ensure traveler check controls restrict acceptance of suspicious bulk travelers checks, and (v) eliminate bearer share accounts. The report also identifies regulatory gaps and recommends that the OCC (i) treat AML deficiencies as a safety and soundness matter, (ii) develop a policy to coordinate internal divisions conducting AML examinations, (iii) consider the use of formal or informal enforcement actions to address mounting AML failures, and (iv) strengthen AML examinations by citing violations and focusing on specific business units and a bank’s AML program as a whole.

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