On May 24, FinCEN Director Calvery delivered remarks before the House Committee on Financial Services at a hearing entitled “Stopping Terror Finance: A Coordinated Government Effort.” Calvery noted FinCEN’s commitment to fostering an environment of financial transparency, and provided insight on the recent issuance of a final rule, issued on May 6, which clarified customer due diligence (CDD) requirements for financial institutions: “[w]e are confident that the CDD final rule will increase financial transparency and augment the ability of financial institutions and law enforcement to identify the assets and accounts of criminals and national security threats. We anticipate that the CDD rule will also facilitate compliance with sanctions programs and other measures that cut off financial flows to these actors.” Calvery further emphasized the significance of recently proposed beneficial ownership legislation, noting that it and the CDD rule “dovetail together.” Calvery opined that the level of transparency that the proposed legislation and the CDD rule offer would assist law enforcement in identifying who the “real people are that are involved in a transaction,” furthering its efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism, enforce sanctions, and prevent other unlawful abuses of the U.S. financial system. Finally, she noted that the beneficial ownership legislation, if enacted, would provide FinCEN with the ability to collect information on all funds transfers (instead of only monetary instruments, as currently authorized) through the use of geographic targeting orders.
FinCEN Determines North Korea is a Jurisdiction of Primary Money Laundering Concern, Issues NPRM to further Restrict Financial Transactions
On June 1, FinCEN announced a Notice of Finding that North Korea is a jurisdiction of “primary money laundering concern” under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. According to FinCEN, North Korea is a jurisdiction of primary money laundering because it (i) conducts international financial transactions that support the proliferation and development of WMD and ballistic missiles through its use of state-controlled financial institutions and front companies; (ii) lacks basic AML or combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) controls in its financial system; (iii) fails to maintain a diplomatic relationship with the U.S.; and (iv) relies on the alleged illicit and corrupt activity of high-level officials to support its government. In light of its findings, FinCEN further issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to implement “a special measure to further isolate North Korea from the international financial system by prohibiting covered U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent accounts with North Korea financial institutions, and prohibiting the use of U.S. correspondent accounts to process transactions for North Korea financial institutions.”
Treasury Announces Beneficial Ownership Legislation; Proposes Foreign-Owned Single-Member LLC Regulations
Recently, the Treasury Department announced that it is sending Congress legislation that would require companies formed within the United States, or “that [use] the mail, wire, or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce in its formation, transfer of ownership, or business activity,” to file beneficial ownership information with the Department, and would impose a $5,000 penalty for failure to comply. The proposed legislation defers to the Department of the Treasury to define beneficial ownership. The new draft legislation also proposes technical amendments to FinCEN’s Geographic Targeting Order (GTO) authority to provide FinCEN the authority to collect information on funds transfers in general, including regarding bank wire transfers, instead of transactions using “monetary instruments.”
Treasury simultaneously announced proposed regulations to require foreign-owned “disregarded entities” to obtain an employer identification number with the IRS. The proposed regulations are intended to address “a narrow class of foreign-owned U.S. entities – typically single member LLCs – that have no obligation to report information to the IRS or to get a tax identification number.” These “disregarded entities” (which include foreign-owned-single-member LLCs) can, according to Treasury, be used to shield non-U.S. assets’ or non-U.S. bank accounts’ foreign owners. If finalized, the regulations would assist the IRS in determining whether a tax liability exists, and if so, how much. Finally, the regulations would allow the IRS to share information with other tax authorities.
On May 16, FinCEN Deputy Director Jamal El-Hindi delivered remarks at the Institute of International Bankers (IIB) Annual Anti-Money Laundering Seminar in New York. The focal point of El-Hindi’s remarks was recent Treasury initiatives , including, (i) the final Customer Due Diligence (CDD) rule; (ii) draft beneficial ownership legislation; and (iii) FinCEN’s use of Geographical Targeting Orders, as addressed in the beneficial ownership draft legislation. The remarks provide an overarching summary of Treasury’s recent regulatory efforts and address the process by which Treasury developed the final CDD rule and the draft beneficial ownership legislation, specifically commenting on and emphasizing FinCEN’s collaborative rulemaking efforts with industry: “I encourage you to keep our conversation going—particularly with respect to support for the beneficial ownership legislation. . . .Please know that FinCEN depends on you, the institutions you represent, and the key feedback and financial intelligence they provide.”
On May 6, FinCEN issued a final rule imposing standardized customer due diligence requirements for banks, broker-dealers, mutual funds, futures commission’s merchants and introducing brokers in commodities. Subject to exceptions for certain types of entities deemed low risk by FinCEN, beginning on May 11, 2018, covered institutions must identify any natural person that owns, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of a legal entity customer or that exercises control over the entity. Covered financial institutions would also have to take measures to verify that they know the true identity of each person identified as a beneficial owner (but would not be required to verify that such persons are in fact beneficial owners). The requirement will apply to new accounts opened by legal entity customers, and will not be retroactive. Additionally, the final rule adds a standardized set of four customer due diligence requirements as a “fifth pillar” of an effective anti-money laundering program. In addition to identification and verification of beneficial owners of legal entities, the requirements include: (i) identification and verification of customers; (ii) understanding the nature and purpose of the customer relationship; and (iii) ongoing monitoring for reporting suspicious transactions and, on a risk basis, updating customer information.