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FinCEN Reminds Financial Institutions about E-Filing Reports
On March 7, FinCEN issued a notice reminding institutions that they must use FinCEN’s new electronic reports to file most Bank Secrecy Act Reports, including Suspicious Activity Reports, Currency Transaction Reports, Registration of Money Services Business, and Designation of Exempt Person Reports. In February 2012, FinCEN issued a final notice requiring electronic filing of most reports by July 1, 2012. Shortly thereafter, FinCEN made available new formats for those reports, which all institutions must begin using by April 1, 2013. The new forms will support the agency’s enforcement efforts. For example, FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery explained recently that in 2012 more than 23 percent of SAR filers selected “other” as the type of suspicious activity. The new form expands the number of options for type of activity being reported from 21 to 70 and adds a text field, allowing filers to described activities more accurately. FinCEN warned that companies that fail to comply with the electronic filing mandate may be subject to civil money penalties.
FinCEN Proposes Third-Party Filing of FBAR Reports
On Mach 5, FinCEN published a notice and request for comment on proposed changes to the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FBAR) to standardize it with other BSA electronically filed reports and allow for a third party preparer to file the report. FinCEN is seeking public comments by May 6, 2013.
FinCEN Reminds Institutions about Tax Refund Fraud and SAR Filing
On February 26, FinCEN issued Advisory FIN-2013-A001 to remind financial institutions of their important role in identifying tax refund fraud and provide a list of red flags to aid in such identification. The Advisory also reminds institutions that they may be required to filed a SAR if they know, suspect or have reason to suspect that a transaction conducted or attempted by, at, or through the financial institution (i) involves funds derived from illegal activity or an attempt to disguise funds derived from illegal activity, (ii) is designed to evade regulations promulgated under the Bank Secrecy Act, or (iii) lacks a business or apparent lawful purpose. Institutions completing a tax refund fraud SAR should use the term “tax refund fraud” in the narrative section of the SAR and provide a detailed description of the activity, and are encouraged to notify their local IRS Criminal Investigation Field Office of the filed SAR.
DOJ Announces Criminal Charges and Penalties for LIBOR Manipulation, Regulators Announce Parallel Civil Enforcement Actions
On February 6, U.S. and U.K. authorities announced that a Japanese financial institution and its British bank parent company agreed to pay roughly $612 million to resolve criminal and civil investigations into the firms’ role in the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a global benchmark rate used in financial products and transactions. The U.S. DOJ announced that the Japanese firm agreed to plead guilty to felony wire fraud, admit its role in in the manipulation scheme, and pay a $50 million fine. In addition, the DOJ filed a criminal information and deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) against the parent company for its role in manipulating LIBOR rates and participating in a price-fixing conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act. As a result, the parent company agreed to pay an additional $100 million penalty, admit to specified facts, and continue to assist the DOJ with its ongoing investigation. The DPA acknowledges the remedial measures undertaken by the bank’s management to enhance internal controls, as well as additional reporting, disclosure, and cooperation requirements undertaken by the bank. Domestic and foreign regulators also announced penalties and disgorgement to resolve parallel civil investigations, including a $325 million penalty obtained by the CFTC, and a $137 million penalty imposed by the U.K. Financial Services Authority.
DOJ Announces Departure of Criminal Division Chief
On January 30, the DOJ announced that Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer will leave the department on March 1, 2013. Mr. Breuer was confirmed for the position in April 2009. The DOJ press release credits him with taking “significant steps to fight corruption at home and abroad,” including by increasing enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and “protecting the integrity of our banking systems and fighting financial fraud.” With regard to the latter, the release cites Mr. Breuer’s LIBOR investigation, and his efforts to develop the division’s Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit to support enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act.
Senators Challenge DOJ on Post-Financial Crisis Settlements
On January 29, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder complaining that settlements obtained by the DOJ from financial institutions alleged to have contributed to the financial crisis “involve penalties that are disproportionately low,” both in relation to the institutions’ profits and the amount of harm the institutions are alleged to have caused. The Senators charge that the DOJ’s “prosecutorial philosophy”, which includes giving consideration to the impact of a prosecution or large penalty against an institution on the broader financial system, erodes public confidence and undermines the department’s institutional standing. The Senators seek responses to a series of questions about the DOJ’s approach to post-financial crisis enforcement, including its use of outside experts in making decisions regarding prosecution of the largest financial institutions.
FinCEN Extends FBAR Filing Deadline
On December 26, FinCEN issued Notice 2012-2 to extend the deadline for certain filers to submit the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). FinCEN has extended this deadline several times in the past and the notice explains that FinCEN continues to receive questions from filers that require additional consideration. Pursuant to the notice, individuals previously granted extensions under FinCEN Notices 2011-1 and 2011-2, have until June 30, 2014 to comply.
U.S. Law Enforcement Authorities and Regulators Resolve Significant Money Laundering and Sanctions Investigations
On December 11, a major international bank holding company announced agreements with U.S. law enforcement authorities and federal bank regulators to end investigations into alleged inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanctions laws by the holding company and its U.S. subsidiaries (collectively the banks). Under these agreements, the banks will make payments totaling $1.92 billion, will continue to cooperate fully with regulatory and law enforcement authorities, and will take further action to strengthen its compliance policies and procedures. As part of the resolution, the bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the DOJ pursuant to which the banks will forfeit $1.256 billion, $375 million of which satisfies a settlement with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The four-count criminal information filed in conjunction with the DPA charges that the banks violated the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program and to conduct appropriate due diligence on its foreign correspondent account holders. The DOJ also alleged that the banks violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act by illegally conducting transactions on behalf of customers in certain countries that were subject to sanctions enforced by OFAC. The banks agreed to pay a single $500 million civil penalty to satisfy separate assessments by the OCC and FinCEN related to the same alleged conduct, as well as a $165 million penalty to the Federal Reserve Board. The banks already have undertaken numerous voluntary remedial actions, including to (i) substantially increase AML compliance spending and staffing, (ii) revamp their Know Your Customer program, (iii) exit 109 correspondent relationships for risk reasons, and (iv) claw back bonuses for a number of senior officers. The banks also have undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of their structure, controls, and procedures, including to (i) simplify the control structure, (ii) create new compliance positions and elevate their roles, (iii) adopt a set of guidelines limiting business in those countries that pose a high financial crime risk, and (iv) implement a single global standard shaped by the highest or most effective anti-money laundering standards available in any location where the banks operates. Pursuant to the DPA, an independent monitor will evaluate the banks’ continued implementation of these and other enhanced compliance measures.
In a separate matter, on December 10, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and the DOJ announced the resolution of a joint investigation into a British bank’s alleged movement of more than $200 million through the U.S. financial system primarily on behalf of Iranian and Sudanese clients by removing information that would have revealed the payments as originating with a sanctioned country or entity, and thereby avoiding OFAC scrutiny. To resolve the matter, the bank was required to pay $227 million in penalties and forfeiture, and to enter into a DPA and corresponding Statement of Facts. Through the DPA, the bank admitted that it violated New York State law by falsifying the records of New York financial institutions and by submitting false statements to its state and federal regulators about its business conduct, and agreed to certain enhanced compliance practices and procedures. The payment also satisfies a settlement with OFAC over the same practices, while the Federal Reserve Board required an additional $100 million penalty to resolve its parallel investigation. The settlement follows an earlier settlement between this British bank and the New York Superintendent of Financial Services regarding the same alleged conduct.
FinCEN Issues Advisories Regarding Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Risks Identified by FATF
Recently, FinCEN published Advisory FIN-2012-A012, which informs financial institutions operating in the United States about certain money laundering and terrorist financing risks identified by the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF). On October 19, 2012, the FATF called on its members to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the on-going and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing risks emanating from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The FATF announcement also detailed anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing deficiencies in 17 jurisdictions that have not made sufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies or have not committed to an action plan to address the deficiencies. The FATF called for enhanced due diligence to address risks arising from the deficiencies associated with each jurisdiction. FinCEN separately published Advisory FIN-2012-A011 to advise institutions of an FATF statement regarding 22 jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing, but for which each jurisdiction has provided a high-level political commitment to address the strategic AML/CFT deficiencies.
FinCEN Releases Summaries of Customer Due Diligence Roundtable Meetings
This week, FinCEN published summaries of a series of roundtable meetings held to obtain stakeholder feedback on the agency’s proposed rulemaking on customer due diligence. The meetings, held in September and October in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, provided a forum to discuss key issues regarding the proposed rulemaking, including (i) the definition of “beneficial ownership,” (ii) practices to obtain and verify beneficial ownership, and (iii) challenges associated with specific products, services, and relationships.