Category Archives: Anti-Money Laundering (AML)

FinCEN Releases Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Customer Due Diligence and Beneficial Ownership Requirements

by David S. Cohen, Franca Harris Gutierrez, Sharon Cohen Levin, Jeremy Dresner and Michael Romais

Last week the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued much-anticipated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that provide additional guidance to financial institutions relating to the implementation of the new Customer Due Diligence Rule (CDD Rule), set to go into effect on May 11, 2018.[1] In general, the FAQs clarify certain issues that have caused implementation challenges for financial institutions. While FinCEN’s earlier guidance provided a general overview of the CDD Rule—including the purpose of the rule, the institutions to which it is applicable, and some relevant definitions—the new FAQs provide greater detail for financial institutions seeking to comply with the CDD Rule. The FAQs are meant to assist covered financial institutions in understanding the scope of their customer due diligence (CDD) obligations, as well as the rule’s impact on their broader anti-money laundering (AML) compliance. While the guidance is helpful in clarifying some of FinCEN’s expectations, the implementation challenge lies in applying the CDD Rule to a financial institution’s specific products and services.

As financial institutions work to meet the CDD Rule’s fast-approaching May 11 compliance deadline, they should pay special attention to the following key areas summarized below. Continue reading

Ninth Circuit Rejects Challenges to a Cease-and-Desist Order Imposed by the FDIC for Violations of the Bank Secrecy Act

by Thomas C. Baxter Jr., Michael M. Wiseman, and Jordan M.H. Wish

Court Defers to the FDIC and the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual in Rejecting a Rare Challenge by a Bank to an Agency-Imposed Cease-and-Desist Order

Summary

On March 12, in California Pacific Bank v. FDIC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit refused to set aside a cease-and-desist order imposed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) on California Pacific Bank (“California Pacific”).[1]  The order requires the bank to comply with, and correct identified violations of, the Bank Secrecy Act (the “BSA”) by improving the bank’s BSA compliance program and Suspicious Activity Report (“SAR”) filing procedures.  In reaching its decision, the court deferred to the Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual, which is published by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (the “FFIEC Manual”),[2] as a definitive statement of the regulatory requirements for satisfying BSA program obligations.  This deference along with an agency-friendly standard of review confirm the broad discretion that the FDIC and other federal banking agencies have in determining violations of the BSA and requiring related remedial actions. Continue reading

“The Big Chill”: Personal Liability and the Targeting of Financial Sector Compliance Officers

by Court E. Golumbic

Introduction   

Prominent law enforcement and regulatory officials have referred to financial sector compliance officers, as “essential partners”[1] in ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, whose “difficult job[s]” merit “appreciat[ion] and respect.”[2] Officials have noted the critical role these professionals play in shaping the culture of financial institutions, as well as the industry more generally.[3] However, a series of recent enforcement actions in which financial sector compliance officers have been personally sanctioned[4] has strained this partnership, fueling concerns among financial sector compliance officers that they are being unfairly targeted.[5]

Law enforcement and regulatory officials have responded to these concerns with assurances that both the ethos of a partnership and their even-handed enforcement approach remain intact.[6] Officials have stressed that in the rare instances in which financial sector compliance officers have been held personally accountable, the majority had engaged in affirmative misconduct.[7] Rarer still, they contend, are cases where compliance officers were found to have exhibited “wholesale” or “broad-based” failures in carrying out responsibilities assigned to them.[8] In these particular cases, officials have stressed that the enforcement actions proceed only when, after carefully weighing the evidence, the facts indicate that the compliance officers “crossed a clear line.”[9] Continue reading

Global Magnitsky Sanctions Target Human Rights Abusers and Government Corruption Around the World

by David S. Cohen, Kimberly A. Parker, Jay Holtmeier, Ronald I. Meltzer, David M. Horn, Lillian Howard Potter, and Michael Romais

On December 20, 2017, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (EO) targeting corruption and human rights abuses around the world.

The EO implements last year’s Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (the Global Magnitsky Act), which authorized the president to impose sanctions against human rights abusers and those who facilitate government corruption.[1] The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which will administer the EO, also added 15 individuals and 37 entities to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). Continue reading

FinCEN Launches New Information-Sharing Platform: The FinCEN Exchange

by David S. Cohen, Franca Harris Gutierrez, Sharon Cohen Levin, Jeremy Dresner, and Michael Romais

Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) recently announced the creation of the FinCEN Exchange, a new voluntary platform to facilitate information sharing between the government and industry on topics related to anti–money laundering (“AML”) and other financial crime issues. The program represents a significant step forward on two related priority areas for FinCEN: information sharing and public-private partnerships. Continue reading

A French Court Authorizes the First-Ever “French DPA”

by Frederick T. Davis

In December 2016 the French government finally passed the so-called “Loi Sapin II” in order to bolster its ability to penalize overseas bribery. Its unstated but clear goal was to achieve some degree of parity with US efforts in this area, which had led to a number of highly publicized cases where well-known French companies had paid fines totaling well over $2 billion to the US treasury to resolve criminal matters that could well have been resolved in France.  A key provision of the new law is a procedure that permits a negotiated outcome, similar in concept to a US Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”), that avoids a criminal conviction.  On November 14, 2017, the first such agreement was announced by the National Financial Prosecutor of France.  While many details of the deal will not be known until the release of the court’s opinion approving it, which may be available as early as the end of November, the fact of the outcome and its known parameters are very significant. Continue reading

New York DFS Pursues $630 Million Fine Against Bank for Alleged Anti-Money Laundering and Sanctions Compliance Failures

by Brad S. Karp, H. Christopher Boehning, Jessica S. Carey, Michael E. Gertzman, Roberto J. Gonzalez, Richard S. Elliott, Rachel Fiorill and Karen R. King

On August 28, 2017, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) announced a “Notice of Hearing and Statement of Charges” that seeks to impose a nearly $630 million civil penalty against Habib Bank Limited and its New York Branch (“the Bank”) based on allegations of persistent Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (“AML”) and sanctions compliance failures.[1] A hearing is scheduled for September 27, 2017 before Cassandra Lentchner, DFS’s Deputy Superintendent for Compliance. The Bank – the largest bank in Pakistan – has contested DFS’s allegations and indicated that it plans to challenge the penalty and surrender its DFS banking license, thus eliminating its only U.S. branch.  DFS also issued two related orders, which (1) expanded the scope of a review of prior transactions for AML and sanctions issues, that was already underway under the terms of an earlier consent order; and (2) outlined the conditions under which the Bank could surrender its DFS banking license, including the retention of a DFS-selected consultant to ensure the orderly wind down of its New York Branch.

The severity of the language and proposed penalty in DFS’s statement of charges reflects the large number and extent of alleged compliance failures at the Bank, which DFS claims persisted for more than a decade, despite agreements with DFS and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (“Federal Reserve”). According to DFS, these failures are “serious, persistent and apparently affect the entire [Bank] enterprise” and indicate a “dangerous absence of attention by [the Bank’s] senior management for the state of compliance at the New York Branch.”

This enforcement action illustrates that a DFS-regulated institution’s failure to show steady progress in remedying identified concerns can have significant and franchise-threatening consequences. We describe the enforcement action in more detail below, including the numerous compliance failures alleged by DFS. Continue reading

President Trump Signs Sanctions Legislation Targeting Russia, North Korea and Iran, Creating New Compliance Risks for U.S. and Non-U.S. Companies

by Brad S. Karp, H. Christopher Boehning, Jessica S. Carey, Michael E. Gertzman, Roberto J. Gonzalez, Richard S. Elliott, and Karen R. King

Legislation Expands Primary and Secondary Sanctions and Limits Presidential Discretion

On August 2, 2017, President Trump signed into law H.R. 3364, the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (“CAATSA” or the “Act”). CAATSA—which was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate and House of Representatives on a broad bipartisan basis[1]—significantly expands certain U.S. sanctions targeting Russia. The law also restricts President Trump’s ability to lift certain sanctions unilaterally, by including a congressional review mechanism that will allow Congress to potentially block the President from relaxing measures targeting Russia.  CAATSA also adds sanctions targeting North Korea, largely incorporating an earlier House bill, the “Korean Interdictions and Modernization of Sanctions (“KIMS”) Act.”  Finally, CAATSA codifies certain non-nuclear sanctions in place against Iran.  Many of the law’s sanctions are secondary sanctions, meaning that non-U.S. entities that engage in certain activities—even if such activities do not involve U.S. persons or the United States—may themselves be sanctioned by the United States.

While a number of the sanctions included in CAATSA are referred to as “mandatory,” it remains to be seen how certain provisions are enforced by the Trump Administration. As an initial matter, many of these provisions require the President to sanction individuals or entities only after he determines that they have engaged in certain activities, thus allowing the President to theoretically refrain from enforcing these sanctions by withholding certain determinations. Additionally, in signing the Act, President Trump released two signing statements, in which he noted his “concerns to Congress about the many ways [the bill] improperly encroaches on Executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies,” and his view that the “bill remains seriously flawed,” because it “encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate” and because “the Congress included a number of clearly unconstitutional provisions.”  President Trump stated that he would implement the statute’s restrictions “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations.” [2]

We describe below CAATSA’s most significant provisions, and outline considerations for U.S. and non-U.S. companies seeking to mitigate their risks under the new legislation. Continue reading

UK Implements New Anti-Money Laundering Rules

by Karolos Seeger, Alex Parker, Ceri Chave, and Andrew Lee

On 26 June 2017, the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017[1] came into force. These new regulations (the “2017 Regulations”):

  • require a written assessment of money laundering risk and prescribe some features of effective internal controls;
  • detail when different categories of customer due diligence must be conducted and what steps must be taken; and
  • specify beneficial ownership information that trusts must provide for inclusion on a central register.

The 2017 Regulations are intended to ensure that the UK’s anti-money laundering regime is in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s standards and to implement into UK law the European Union’s Fourth Money Laundering Directive (“MLD 4”).[2] The key features of the 2017 Regulations and the principal differences between them and the Money Laundering Regulations 2007[3] (the “2007 Regulations”) are summarised below. Continue reading

The Risks of De-Risking

by Julie Copeland and Mirella deRose

Over the past several years, financial institutions in the United States and abroad have increasingly engaged in a “slimming down” of their client base.  They have done so by deciding not to accept certain types of clients ranging from individuals engaged in specific industries –such as trade merchants, precious metal dealers or “politically exposed persons” (a term of art to be discussed below) – to whole categories of businesses or entities such as money service businesses, charities and foreign banks.  This trend, which is now commonly referred to as “de-risking,” has significant collateral consequences for those using the global financial network.This blog will discuss de-risking, its causes and consequences, and some of the solutions that have been proposed to address the unintended results of this practice.

Since the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks – some would argue even before that – regulators in the U.S. and elsewhere have singled out certain categories of individuals and entities that either are strictly forbidden to hold accounts with financial institutions or, more routinely, require enhanced reviews by the institutions in which the accounts are maintained.  The first category of accounts – those that are forbidden – includes entities such as “shell banks,” which are foreign banks without a physical presence in any country.  Pursuant to law, U.S. financial institutions may not maintain accounts for such entities. Continue reading