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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Agencies clarify BSA/AML due diligence requirements for “politically exposed persons”

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On August 21, the FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, FinCEN, NCUA, and OCC issued a joint statement clarifying that banks should ensure customers who may be considered “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) be subject to customer due diligence matching the risk levels posed by the relationships. In general, while PEPs are not defined within the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) regulations, they commonly refer to “foreign individuals who are or have been entrusted with a prominent public function, as well as their immediate family members and close associates.” U.S. public officials are not included. Specifically, the agencies emphasized that not all individuals who might qualify as PEPs “are high risk solely by virtue of their status.” While FinCEN’s customer due diligence rule (CDD rule), requires banks to identify and verify the identities of new account holders, assess the riskiness of these customer relationships, and conduct ongoing monitoring (see InfoBytes coverage of the CDD Rule here), the agencies note that “the CDD rule does not create a regulatory requirement, and there is no supervisory expectation, for banks to have unique, additional due diligence steps for customers who are considered PEPs. Instead, the level and type of CDD should be appropriate for the customer risk.”

The joint statement also outlines a number of considerations for banks to take into account when evaluating a PEP’s risk level, including the type of products and services used, the volume and nature of transactions, the nature of the customer’s authority or influence over government activities or officials, and the customer’s access to significant government assets or funds. Among other impacts, the agencies note that the customer risk profile may effect “how the bank complies with other regulatory requirements, such as suspicious activity monitoring, since the bank structures its BSA/AML compliance program to address its risk profile, based on the bank’s assessment of risks.” The joint statement also rescinds the 2001 Guidance on Enhanced Scrutiny for Transactions that May Involve the Proceeds of Foreign Corruption related to foreign PEPs.

The agencies emphasized, however, that the joint statement does not change existing BSA/AML legal or regulatory requirements, nor does it “require banks to cease existing risk management practices if the bank considers them necessary to effectively manage risk.”

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