Category Archives: Enforcement Policy

AML Information Sharing in a Technology-Enabled and Privacy-Conscious World

by Kevin Petrasic, Paul Saltzman, Jonah Anderson, Jeremy Kuester, John Wagner, Rebecca Copcutt, and John Timmons

Financial firms play an integral role in preventing, identifying, investigating and reporting criminal activity, including terrorist financing, money laundering, and many other finance-related crimes. It is a critical role that depends on financial firms having the information they need to identify and report potentially suspicious activity and provide other relevant information to law enforcement. However, there are significant barriers to information sharing throughout the US anti-money laundering (“AML”) regime. These barriers limit the effectiveness of AML information sharing within a financial institution, among financial institutions, and between financial institutions and law enforcement.

Much has changed in the 17 years following the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act (“Patriot Act”), which, among other things, sought to enable greater information sharing among law enforcement, regulators and financial institutions regarding AML risks. Of note, Section 314(a) of the Patriot Act and its implementing regulations (“Section 314(a)”) enables federal, state, local and European Union law enforcement agencies to reach out to US financial institutions through the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) to locate accounts and transactions of persons that may be involved in terrorism or money laundering. Section 314(b) of the Patriot Act and its implementing regulations (“Section 314(b)”) provides a limited safe harbor for financial institutions to share information with one another in order to better identify and report potential money laundering or terrorist activities. Continue reading

Trends in U.S. Sanctions Enforcement During the Trump Administration

by Dr. Bryan R. Early and Keith A. Preble

U.S. Economic Sanctions Policy

Economic sanctions are coercive foreign policy tools that work by disrupting otherwise profitable commerce between the governments imposing them and their targets. In order to be effective, governments imposing sanctions must obtain the compliance of their constituents, or the sanctions will not harm their targets as intended. Complying with sanctions is costly for companies not only in terms of the commerce they disrupt, but also with respect to the investments required to prevent unintentional violations. Thus, as policy tools, economic sanctions inherently create costly compliance obligations for companies. Given that employing sanctions appears to run counter to U.S. President Donald Trump’s goal of reducing regulatory burdens on U.S. firms, it is surprising that he has heavily relied upon threatening and imposing sanctions as part of his administration’s foreign policy.

Two years into the Trump Administration, we can begin to see evidence of how this tension in President Trump’s policy preferences has affected the implementation of U.S. sanctions. Despite the fiery rhetoric directed at the targets of U.S. sanctions, our research indicates that the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has adopted a softer stance on sanctions enforcement during the Trump Administration than during his predecessors’ administrations. The major area in which OFAC’s recent enforcement policies have been more stringent is in punishing foreign sanctions violators. This suggests that OFAC has resolved the tension between reducing regulatory burdens on U.S. firms and President Trump’s sanctions preferences by focusing more of its attention on punishing foreign firms instead of American ones for violating sanctions. Continue reading

Court Upholds SEC Authority and Finds Broker-Dealer Liable for Thousands of Suspicious Activity Reporting Violations

by H. Christopher Boehning, Jessica S. Carey, Michael E. Gertzman, Roberto J. Gonzalez, David S. HuntingtonBrad S. Karp, Raphael M. Russo, Richard S. Elliott, Rachel M. Fiorill, Karen R. King, Anand Sithian, and Katherine S. Stewart

Decision Provides Rare Judicial Guidance on SAR Filing Requirements

On December 11, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained a victory in its enforcement action against Alpine Securities Corporation, a broker that cleared transactions for microcap securities that were allegedly used in manipulative schemes to harm investors.[1] Judge Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a 100-page opinion partially granting the SEC’s motion for summary judgment and finding Alpine liable for thousands of violations of its obligation to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).[2]

Because most SAR-related enforcement actions are resolved without litigation, this decision is a rare instance of a court’s detailed examination of SAR filing requirements.  The decision began by rejecting—for a second time[3]—Alpine’s argument that the SEC lacks authority to pursue SAR violations.  The court then engaged in a number of line-drawing exercises, finding that various pieces of information, as a matter of law, triggered Alpine’s SAR filing obligations and should have been included in the SAR narratives.  This mode of analysis, which applies the SAR rules under the traditional summary judgment standard, may appear to contrast with regulatory guidance recognizing that SARs involve subjective, discretionary judgments.[4]

Although the decision has particular relevance in the microcap context, all broker-dealers—and potentially other entities subject to SAR filing requirements—may wish to review the court’s reasoning for insight on a number of SAR issues, including the adequacy of SAR narratives and the inclusion of “red flag” information. Among other cautions, the decision illustrates the dangers of relying on SAR “template narratives”[5] that lack adequate detail.

More broadly, the SEC’s action against Alpine is another indicator of heightened federal interest in ensuring broker-dealer compliance with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requirements. For example, last month the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York brought the first-ever criminal BSA charge against a broker-dealer, noting that this charge “makes clear that all actors governed by the Bank Secrecy Act—not only banks—must uphold their obligations.”[6] Continue reading

An Unintended Consequence of Tax Enforcement: More (And Better) Bank Lending?

by John Gallemore and Martin Jacob

Corporate tax enforcement has become a critical issue for many governments in recent years, given the massive amount of lost revenues and budget deficits. There is empirical evidence that corporate tax avoidance has increased over the past decades. [1] Some countries have responded by increasing coordination to combat tax avoidance. For example, the OECD countries created the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project. At the same time, the IRS has seen its budget reduced in recent years. [2]

While policymakers have considered multiple remedies for combating aggressive corporate tax avoidance, such as withholding rules and information sharing, the IMF notes that “auditing remains crucial.” [3] Consistent with this idea, to aid the implementations of BEPS in developing countries, the OECD and the United Nations Development Program jointly started the Tax Inspectors Without Borders initiative to encourage greater investments in tax return audit capacity and to improve actual audit results. [4]

The obvious outcome of greater tax enforcement is a reduction in aggressive corporate tax avoidance. However, it is less clear whether and how tax enforcement affects firms and their stakeholders beyond tax payments. Understanding these “tax enforcement spillovers” is critical in assessing the overall net benefit of tax enforcement. Continue reading

National Bank Supervision Manual

by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

OCC’s New and Revised Sections of Policies and Procedures Manual Relating to Enforcement Actions Suggest Continued Heightened Interest in Actions Against Individuals

Summary

Historically, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) has applied a single set of internal policies and procedures to enforcement actions brought against individuals (institution-affiliated parties (“IAPs”)) and institutions (national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banks (collectively, “banks”)).  On November 13, the OCC issued a new section to its Policies and Procedures Manual (“PPM”) specific to enforcement actions against IAPs (the “IAP PPM”)[1] and simultaneously updated the existing sections for Bank Enforcement Actions and Related Matters (the “Bank PPM”)[2] and for Civil Money Penalties (“CMPs”) (the “CMP PPM”).[3]  The new IAP PPM generally breaks no new ground, and most changes to the Bank PPM and CMP PPM align those two sections with, and reflect the issuance of, the IAP PPM.  There are, however, several notable additions and modifications to the new and revised sections that serve to improve the clarity and transparency of the OCC’s enforcement action process. 

Beyond those distinctions, the issuance of a standalone IAP PPM suggests a continued, if not increased, focus by the OCC on actions against IAPs going forward, and is consistent with the broader theme, evidenced over the last several years, of regulatory and law enforcement focus on holding individuals accountable in cases of financial institution wrongdoing.[4]  The new OCC IAP PPM suggests a continual focus on holding individuals accountable for corporate misconduct in the financial industry. Continue reading

France Boosts Tax Fraud Prosecution

by Antoine F. Kirry, Frederick T. Davis, Eric Bérengier, Alexandre Bisch, Robin Lööf, Aymeric D. Dumoulin, Alice Stosskopf, Fanny Gauthier, and Line Chataud

On October 23, 2018, the French Parliament enacted a law aimed at combatting fraud (the “Law”).[1] The most innovative provisions of the Law change key procedural aspects of tax law enforcement, which is likely to result in an increased number of criminal tax fraud prosecutions against both individuals and legal entities. The Law also addresses customs and social security frauds.

Tax Fraud Prosecution: Open the Floodgates Continue reading

Getting Comfortable with Collective Knowledge

by Mihailis E. Diamantis

Doctrines for attributing knowledge to corporations seem to be stuck between doing far too little and the risk of doing far too much.  Respondeat superior forces plaintiffs and prosecutors to find a single corporate employee with all the relevant knowledge.[1]  This means corporations automatically win against knowledge-based allegations when, as will predictably happen, knowledge is dispersed across corporate personnel.  The familiar solution is to introduce some way to aggregate knowledge.  But the doctrine that does just that—the collective knowledge doctrine—has met with widespread skepticism.[2]  The worry is that the collective knowledge doctrine treats corporations as knowing too much by triggering knowledge-based penalties for mere negligence in maintaining lines of communication.[3]  As a result, few courts have adopted the collective knowledge doctrine since it was introduced more than thirty years ago.[4]

If judges and scholars are ever going to get comfortable with moving beyond respondeat superior, they need to think hard about the informational logic of the collective knowledge doctrine.  As I argue in a working paper, The Corporation and the Epistemologist,[5] that logic is poorly understood.  Discussions vacillate without warning between two versions of the doctrine: one of which is entirely toothless, the other of which is worryingly permissive.  Once these two versions are distinguished, the search for a happy compromise can begin. Continue reading

What’s in a Name? That Which We Now Call the Justice Manual Has a Familiar, But Distinctive, Scent

by Katya Jestin, David Bitkower, Matthew D. Cipolla, Anne Cortina Perry, and Jessica A. Martinez

On September 25, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the rollout of the “Justice Manual” – a revised and renamed version of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, a long-used reference for Department of Justice (DOJ) policies and procedures.[1] The most significant changes appear to be confined to anticipated codifications of well-publicized new policies (although one such policy was, puzzlingly, omitted). But some other changes have not been previously addressed by Department leadership, and may provide insight into the Department’s mindset in light of recent events.

The recent rollout was the culmination of a yearlong review and overhaul of the Manual, the first in more than 20 years.[2] This initiative to streamline DOJ policies and revamp the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual was announced by Deputy AG Rosenstein last October in a speech at NYU. Rosenstein explained in his initial announcement that the project would work to identify redundancies, clarify ambiguities, eliminate surplus language, and update the Manual to reflect current law and DOJ practice, including through the incorporation of outstanding policy memoranda.[3] According to DOJ’s recent announcement, the name change from “U.S. Attorneys’ Manual” to “Justice Manual” not only reflects this significant undertaking by DOJ employees, but also emphasizes the applicability of the Manual to the entire Department, beyond the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.[4] Continue reading

Director of the Serious Fraud Office Lisa Osofsky Keynote on Future SFO Enforcement

by Lisa Osofsky

Thank you.

I have just completed my first month as Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

As a new director, I have spent my first weeks meeting the talented and hardworking SFO team – from lawyers to investigators to accountants to computer experts to the administrative team who are the backbone of every government agency all around the globe.   I have come to an office with strong values and a commitment to justice, a dedication for searching for the truth.  Continue reading

DOJ Extends FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy Principles to Non-FCPA Misconduct Discovered in the M&A Context

by John F. Savarese, Ralph M. Levene, David B. Anders, Marshall L. Miller, and Daniel H. Rosenblum

In an important speech, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew Miner of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division announced on Thursday that DOJ will “look to” the principles of the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (PDF: 50.6 KB) in evaluating “other types of potential wrongdoing, not just FCPA violations” that are uncovered in connection with mergers and acquisitions.  As a result, when an acquiring company identifies misconduct through pre-transaction due diligence or post-transaction integration, and then self-reports the relevant conduct, DOJ is now more likely to decline to prosecute if the company fully cooperates, remediates in a complete and timely fashion, and disgorges any ill-gotten gains. Continue reading