FinCEN Issues Proposed Rule to Remove AML Exemption for Certain Banks

On August 26, FinCEN published a proposed rule that seeks to impose AML program requirements on banks that are without a Federal functional regulator, including, but not limited to, private banks, non-federally insured credit unions, and certain trust companies. FinCEN estimates that there are 740 such banks nationwide. The proposal would establish minimum AML program standards for such banks. In addition, if finalized, the proposed rule would expand the reach of FinCEN’s customer due diligence final rule to cover banks that are not already subject to the rule’s customer identification program requirements and beneficial ownership requirements. FinCEN issued the proposal to ensure that Bank Secrecy Act coverage is consistent across the industry. Comments on the proposal must be submitted to FinCEN by October 24, 2016.

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FinCEN Expands Reach of Real Estate Geographical Targeting Orders

On July 27, FinCEN issued temporary Geographical Targeting Orders (GTO) requiring certain U.S. title insurance companies to identify and report the natural persons behind shell companies used to conduct “all-cash” purchases of high-end real estate in six major metropolitan areas. The GTOs cover the following areas: (i) all boroughs of New York City; (ii) Miami-Date, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in South Florida; (iii) Los Angeles County; (iv) San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties; (v) San Diego Country; and (vi) Bexar County, Texas, which includes San Antonio. FinCEN simultaneously released a table outlining the monetary thresholds that trigger the identification and reporting requirements in each jurisdiction. Upon taking effect, the GTOs will remain effective for 180 days absent an extension. As previously covered in InfoBytes, FinCEN remains concerned that all-cash purchases conducted through LLCs or other “opaque structures,” may be conducted by natural persons trying to hide their assets and identity. According to FinCEN’s Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi, “[b]y expanding the GTOs to other major cities, we will learn even more about the money laundering risks in the national real estate markets, helping us determine our future regulatory course.”

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OFAC Issues Finding of Violation for Alleged Violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations

On July 27, OFAC issued a Finding of Violation to a bank for allegedly maintaining accounts on behalf of two individuals on OFAC’s SDN list. On June 12, 2013, pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, OFAC added the two individuals to the SDN list based on their involvement in money laundering operations. From June 12, 2013 to June 3, 2014, OFAC alleged that, due to a misconfiguration in the bank’s sanctions screening software, it failed to identify and block accounts belonging to them. OFAC asserted that the bank had reason to know it maintained accounts on behalf of the designated individuals as an aggravating factor under its Enforcement Guidelines, but noted that the fact that “no managers or supervisors appeared to have been aware of the conduct that led to the apparent violations” was a mitigating factor. The Finding of Violation also noted that the bank took remedial action to respond to the violations and cooperated with OFAC by signing a tolling agreement, as well as two extensions to the tolling agreement.

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FinCEN Issues FAQs Regarding Customer Due Diligence Requirements

On July 19, FinCEN issued FAQs to clarify the scope of the May 2016 Customer Due Diligence (CDD) final rule. As previously covered in InfoBytes, and as outlined in Question 2 of the recently-released FAQs, the final rule imposes standardized CDD requirements for federally regulated banks and federally insured credit unions, mutual funds, brokers or dealers in securities, futures commission merchants, and introducing brokers in commodities (collectively, covered financial institutions). While the FAQs provide a detailed description of the CDD requirements, they state that, “[i]n short, covered financial institutions are now required to obtain, verify, and record the identities of the beneficial owners of legal entity customers.” Notably, Question 5 of the FAQs clarifies that the CDD rule amends the AML program requirements to explicitly require covered financial institutions to implement and maintain risk-based procedures for conducting ongoing customer due diligence, including, but not limited to, (i) understanding the nature and purpose of the customer relationship; and (ii) conducting ongoing monitoring to identify and report suspicious transactions, as well as maintain and update customer information on a risk basis. The FAQs also note that covered financial institutions must include CDD procedures in their AML compliance program. In addition to discussing definitions for certain terms within the CDD rule, such as “account” and “beneficial owner,” the FAQs outline, among other things, the type of beneficial ownership information that covered financial institutions must collect for legal entity customers. Finally, as reiterated in the FAQs, the CDD rule has an effective date of July 11, 2016 and an applicability date of May 11, 2018.

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OCC Releases Semiannual Risk Perspective Report

On July 11, the OCC released its Semiannual Risk Perspective for Spring 2016, which generally provides an overview of supervisory concerns for the federal banking system and specifically presents data as of December 31, 2015 in the following areas: (i) operating environment; (ii) bank performance; (iii) key risk issues; and (iv) regulatory actions. Similar to the fall 2015 report, the current report identifies cybersecurity, third-party vendor management, business continuity planning, TRID, and BSA/AML compliance, among other things, as key areas of potential operational and compliance risk. Further, the report highlights the new Military Lending Act rule, effective October 3, 2016, as a new key potential risk. According to the report, the OCC’s supervisory priorities for the next twelve months will generally remain the same; moreover, the outlook for the OCC’s Large Bank Supervision and Midsize and Community Bank Supervision operating units will remain broadly similar.

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