On April 12, FinCEN Director Calvery delivered remarks at the ACAMS AML and Financial Crimes conference. Calvery addressed the vulnerabilities of the real estate market to money laundering. Although FinCEN has addressed a number of vulnerabilities in the mortgage lending industry by imposing AML program requirements on non-bank residential mortgage lenders and originators, Calvery noted that “all cash sales” — that is, properties purchased without a mortgage— are a “gap we must address.” The recent Geographical Targeting Orders (GTO) issued to certain U.S. title insurance companies targeting high-end, all cash real estate sales in New York and Miami are intended to assist FinCEN in gathering information to address this gap. Calvery also noted that FinCEN will continue to engage with its regulatory, law enforcement, and real estate industry partners to determine (i) where the most significant risks lie; (ii) whether additional AML requirements are needed; and (iii) the best approach for mitigating “identified vulnerabilities while balancing the benefits of information gathering tools like the GTOs with potential burden imposed on the industry.”
On April 26, FinCEN announced the departure of Director Calvery. Commenting on Calvery’s accomplishments during her tenure as Director, the agency opined that, “[u]nder Ms. Calvery’s direction, [it] has enhanced its reputation within the U.S. government, throughout the U.S. financial sector, and with international financial partners as a key resource in the fight against terrorist finance, money laundering, and transnational organized crime.” As Director of FinCEN since September 2012, Calvery’s team has addressed topics such as virtual currency, money laundering via real estate purchases, and terrorist financing. Calvery will be departing FinCEN at the end of May 2016.
On April 5, FinCEN assessed a civil money penalty against a Nevada-based casino for willfully violating the anti-money laundering provisions of the BSA. From 2010 through November 2013, the casino allegedly failed to (i) establish and implement an effective, written anti-money laundering program; (ii) establish and maintain appropriate internal controls in compliance with the BSA’s reporting requirements; (iii) conduct independent testing of its AML program; (iv) implement automated data processing systems that ensured compliance with the BSA and the casino’s AML program; (v) report suspicious activity; and (vi) secure and retain certain required records. According to FinCEN, the casino generally “lacked a culture of compliance” and had a “blatant disregard for AML compliance permeat[ing] at all levels.” The casino agreed to a $1 million civil money penalty and admitted to willfully violating the BSA’s program, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements.
On March 31, FinCEN published a final rule imposing the fifth special measure against FBME Bank Ltd. (FBME). Pursuant Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the fifth special measure prohibits U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining a correspondent account for, or on behalf of, FBME. As previously covered in InfoBytes, on July 29, 2015, FinCEN published a similar final rule, which did not take effect as, one day before its effective date, a U.S. district court granted FBME’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule from taking effect. In November 2015, FinCEN subsequently re-opened its comment period for the final rule, soliciting additional comments “particularly with respect to the unclassified, non-protected documents that support the rulemaking and whether any alternatives to the prohibition of the opening or maintaining of correspondent accounts with FBME would effectively mitigate the risk to domestic financial institutions.” According to FinCEN, its recently issued final rule will “guard against the international money laundering and terrorist financing risks that FBME poses to the U.S. financial system.” The Final Rule is effective July 29, 2016.
On April 4, FinCEN issued a proposed rule to amend the definitions of “broker or dealer in securities” and “broker-dealer” under the regulations implementing the BSA. Specifically, FinCEN proposed that the definitions be amended to “explicitly include funding portals that are involved in the offering or selling of crowdfunding securities pursuant to section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act of 1933.” Intended to help prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes, the amendments would require funding portals to implement policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure compliance with the BSA requirements currently applicable to brokers or dealers in securities. Comments on the proposal are due by June 3, 2016.