On March 11, FinCEN issued FIN-2016-G001 to provide clarity to money services business (MSB) principals regarding the risks associated with foreign agents’ AML compliance. FinCEN’s guidance, which complements recently issued state guidance, encourages coordination among Federal and state regulators on issues related to MSBs’ AML program obligations. FinCEN emphasizes that an MSB “remains independently and wholly responsible for implementing adequate AML program requirements,” noting, therefore, that “neither the agent nor the principal can avoid liability for failing to establish and maintain an effective AML program by pointing to a contract assigning this responsibility to another party (whether the agent or principal).” Read more…
In a press release on November 18, the Fed announced revised post-employment restrictions that more than double the number of senior staff examiners barred from leaving a Federal Reserve Bank and going right to work for a bank they had supervised. By law, senior bank examiners are prohibited for one year from accepting paid work from a financial institution that they had primary responsibility for examining in their last year of Reserve Bank employment. This post-employment restriction has previously applied only to central points of contacts (CPCs) at firms with more than $10 billion in assets. The revised policy expands this post-employment restriction to deputy CPCs, senior supervisory officers (SSOs), deputy SSOs, enterprise risk officers, and supervisory team leaders, which has the effect of more than doubling the number of senior examiners covered. The policy—which takes effect January 2, 2017—does not apply to senior examiners responsible for multiple unaffiliated banks.
In addition, another new Fed policy prohibits former Fed Bank officers from representing financial institutions and other third parties in matters before the Fed for one year after leaving their Federal Reserve position. This policy takes effect on December 5.
On February 29, the OCC released Bulletin 2016-6, supplementing information in Bulletin 2007-36, “BSA Enforcement Policy,” and rescinding Bulletin 205-45, “Process for Taking Administrative Enforcement Actions Against Banks Based on BSA Violations.” Applicable to OCC-supervised institutions, the bulletin describes the OCC’s enforcement process for banks’ noncompliance with BSA requirements and dealing with repeated or uncorrected BSA compliance problems. As outlined in the bulletin, this administrative enforcement process is comprised of four distinct parts: (i) notice and opportunity to respond, during which bank management has 15 days to respond to the OCC’s written notice regarding potential noncompliance; (ii) consideration of enforcement actions, when the OCC’s supervisory office and legal department reviews relevant materials and makes a recommendation to the OCC Supervision Review Committee, which then determines whether the OCC should pursue an enforcement action or if the determination should instead be delegated to the Senior Deputy Comptroller; (iii) initiation of BSA enforcement actions, at which point the bank receives the final letter or report of examination, a proposed cease-and-desist order, and notice regarding potential civil money penalties upon approval of the action; and (iv) coordination with other agencies, when the OCC notifies FinCEN of any informal and formal actions taken against the alleged perpetrator, and when the OCC ensures that all suspicious activity reports are filed and coordinated with other appropriate law enforcement agencies.
OCC and FinCEN Assess Civil Money Penalties against Florida-Based Wealth Management Firm for BSA Violations
On February 25, the OCC, in coordination with FinCEN, announced that it took action against a Florida-based wealth management firm and private bank for allegedly violating the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). According to the OCC, the bank failed to maintain an effective BSA/AML compliance program, thus violating its 2010 agreement with the OCC to “revise its policies, procedures, and systems related to the BSA/AML laws and regulations (‘BSA/AML Compliance Program’), and, among other things, address weaknesses with the Bank’s BSA/AML Compliance programs, including a lack of internal controls necessary to ensure effective and timely customer identification, risk assessment, monitoring, validation, and suspicious activity reports (‘SARs’).” Without admitting or denying any wrongdoing, the bank agreed to pay a total of $4 million in civil penalties, with $2.5 million to be paid directly to the OCC and, pursuant to FinCEN’s separately announced civil money penalty, $1.5 to be paid to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
On March 22, the OCC will host a Credit Risk workshop for directors of national community banks and federal savings associations. The workshop will focus on credit risk within the loan portfolio, including identifying trends and recognizing problems. In addition, the workshop will address (i) the board and management’s roles; (ii) how to stay informed of changes in credit risk; and (iii) how to effect change. On March 23, the OCC will host a separate Compliance Risk workshop that will include lectures, discussions, and exercises on key elements of a robust compliance risk management system. Topic discussions will include the BSA, Community Reinvestment Act, and the TRID rule. Both workshops will take place in Santa Ana, California; capacity is limited to the first 35 registrants.