Financial Regulatory Forum

U.S. Treasury to lead review of anti-money laundering rules

By Brett Wolf

ST. LOUIS/NEW YORK, (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The Obama administration will review a sprawling net of anti-money laundering rules and seek to correct “gaps, redundancies or inefficiencies,” in the U.S. system now more than 40 years old, the Treasury Department’s top official overseeing the issue said on Monday.

David Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the department had launched an anti-money laundering task force along with federal regulators and law enforcement agencies. The initiative comes as federal authorities crack down harder on anti-money laundering lapses, with high profile cases against financial institutions. (more…)

U.S. broker-dealers scrutinized for anti-laundering compliance in Venezuelan currency swaps

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK, Nov. 13 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Securities industry regulators are beginning to ask U.S. broker-dealers tough questions about how they are mitigating money laundering and sanctions risks associated with their involvement in a 2-year-old currency exchange system run by the Venezuelan government, sources familiar with the issue said.

“There are a lot of questions being asked by regulators and compliance officers,” said Sven Stumbauer, managing director of Veris Consulting Inc’s Miami office. “And some broker-dealers, especially small introducing brokers, cannot answer them.” (more…)

New U.S. FinCEN director must bolster agency under pressure over Iran sanctions, money laundering

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK, Sept. 21 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - When former Justice Department official Jennifer Shasky Calvery takes the reins at the U.S. Treasury Department’s anti-money laundering bureau on Monday, her first job is to revive the beleaguered agency amid pressure over Iran sanctions and money-laundering enforcement, sources said.

Shasky Calvery is a former prosecutor who cut her teeth dismantling international organized crime groups and tracking down their money. She will need all her leadership and diplomacy skills to boost the bureau’s morale, which has plummeted with the loss of skilled leaders and withering criticism from many fronts, and outline the policies with which she will make her mark as the new head of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). (more…)

U.S. Justice Department eyes compliance lapses in next era of money-laundering cases

By Aruna Viswanatha and Brett Wolf

NEW YORK, Sept. 4 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The U.S. Department of Justice is shifting its sights to a new offensive in combating money laundering: bringing criminal charges against banks and other financial institutions for weak compliance systems that fail to catch illicit money flows.

Even while the department’s money-laundering unit is wrapping up a series of blockbuster cases involving sanctions-busting transactions routed through some of Europe’s biggest banks, it has set its sights on the next front. (more…)

U.S. bank regulator promises better enforcement following scathing congressional report into HSBC AML failures

By Brett Wolf

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - After widespread anti-money laundering (AML) failures at HSBC that continued for years due to lax regulatory oversight, a U.S. bank regulator has vowed to take a broader view of institutions’ compliance programs during examinations.

“The agency was much too slow in responding and addressing what are significant weaknesses or violations at this institution. Going forward, I would hope that we would be much more nimble and take into account the entire picture,” Thomas Curry, who took over as Comptroller of the Currency less than four months ago, said on Tuesday during a hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. (more…)

Enforcement against Citibank serves as reminder that compliance counts in product development

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK, April 12 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - A financial institution’s anti-money laundering team must have the authority to question account relationships and business plans, and any objections must be taken seriously. That was one of the key lessons to be learned from the last week’s regulatory enforcement action against Citibank over AML weaknesses, experts said.

A provision of the cease-and-desist (C&D) order, levied by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), obliges Citibank to ensure that its compliance staff has the authority to implement a Bank Secrecy Act compliance program “and, as needed, question account relationships and business plans.”  (more…)

U.S. budget cut seen threatening state, local financial crime-fighting

By Brett Wolf

ST. LOUIS, March 11 (Complinet) – A looming cut to the federal financial crime agency’s budget could cripple state and local investigations that depend on transactions monitored via the anti-money laundering Bank Secrecy Act, worried authorities said.

In a surprise move, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has decided to save nearly $1.4 million by doing away with positions that facilitate state and local law enforcers’ access to the coveted data, often used in fighting drug trafficking, fraud and terrorism finance. (more…)

US Fed cash-flow data called underused weapon in war on drugs (Complinet Special Report)

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman (C) of the Southern District of Florida speaks at a press conference in Miami, Florida March 17, 2010. Sloman announced a settlement that the Wachovia Bank unit of Wells Fargo & Company has agreed to pay $160 million as part of a deal to settle U.S. allegations that it laundered Mexican drug money. At left is Deputy Chief Counsel Daniel Stipano of the Office of Comptroller of Currency and at right is Mark Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Office. REUTERS/Joe SkipperBy Brett Wolf, Complinet

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 31 – The consumption of illegal drugs generates tens of billions of dollars for Mexico’s drug cartels each year, and the fight against it creates significant challenges for those who oversee and participate in the US financial system. The river of money flows into Mexico mostly in the form of cash, often hidden in secret vehicle compartments. The money feeds cartel operations and stokes conflicts with the government and with rivals that have killed an estimated 35,000 people during the past four years. US authorities have bolstered their efforts to halt the cross-border cash shipments, but their progress has been limited. Policymakers are desperately searching for better ways to fight the flow.

An investigation by Complinet has revealed details of how the money flows, and a potentially underused tool: the closely held “country flow” data maintained by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The records, only recently made public, document the international flow of US cash and could help to illuminate the shadowy paths taken by drug money. They are so closely guarded, however, that experts say the ground-level investigators who could make the best use of it never see it, and the issue is so sensitive most government officials are unwilling to talk about it for attribution.

(more…)

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