On July 20, 2017, Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced in the House of Representatives H.R. 3321, the “National Strategy for Combating Terrorist, Underground, and Other Illicit Financing Act.” The purpose of H.R. 3321 is to “require the establishment of a national strategy for combating the financing of terrorism and related financial crimes, and for other purposes.” As summarized by the House Financial Services Committee, which will meet to markup the bill on July 25, 2017, H.R. 3321 would among other measures “require the President, acting through the Treasury Secretary, to develop and publish a whole-of-government strategy to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.”
The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee (the “FSC“) Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee will on July 18, 2017 hold a hearing entitled “Managing Terrorism Financing Risk in Remittances and Money Transfers.” The FSC memorandum to all of its members states that the “hearing will explore the terrorist and illicit financing risks that are inherent in any form of asset transfer whether through formal banking channels, MSBs, other legitimate remittance networks, or through informal and unregulated value-transfer systems.”
Ahead of the upcoming G20 meeting, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) published today, July 4, 2017, a progress report on efforts to address the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships (derisking) and its action plan to assess and address derisking. Among the areas of concern and action items identified by the FSB are remittances and building the capacity of affected respondent bank jurisdictions to effectively identify and counter money laundering, terrorism finance, and other illicit financial activities. Importantly, the FSB has stated that its efforts will focus not just on legislation and rule-making in respondent jurisdictions, but also on the capacity of those jurisdictions to implement and enforce stronger AML/CFT and other anti-financial crime rules.
State-owned enterprises (SOEs, including sovereign wealth funds) are prominent players in international business. Given their ownership, SOEs have garnered scrutiny for their lack of transparency and heightened anti-corruption and anti-money laundering risk, as have individual SOE executives and other personnel who qualify as Politically Exposed Persons. In connection with commercial activities, SOEs are not protected in most cases by sovereign immunity. Thus, SOEs can, like their privately-owned counterparts, be subject to foreign legal processes. Given the greater scrutiny around SOEs and some of the high profile enforcement actions involving them directly or indirectly (for example, the 1MDB case), anti-corruption and other compliance, as well as good governance and risk management, are essential to avoid legal, commercial, and reputational risk and loss.
With respect to foreign correspondent banking, the Guidelines’ clarifications are designed to respond to the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships (derisking) that have adversely affected banks and, in some cases, entire regions. Accordingly, Annex 2 of the Guidelines includes a list of risk factors that “correspondent banks should consider in their risk assessment of money laundering and financing of terrorism associated with correspondent banking.”
On April 27, 2017, I attended a Congressional hearing on “Safeguarding the Financial System from Terrorist Financing,” held by the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance (the “Subcommittee”). The sole witness was Mr. Jamal El-Hindi, Acting Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury charged with protecting the financial system from money laundering, terrorism financing and other illicit activities. The hearing’s purposes were to examine the methods and efficacy of FinCEN data collection, processing and information sharing and whether the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and USA PATRIOT Act should be amended to improve FinCEN’s anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CFT) capacities and performance. In this brief MassPoint update, I highlight BSA data collection and usage numbers and some of the questions and issues that appeared to be of particular interest and/or concern to Congress members in attendance, taking into account the nature and frequency of the questions asked, the tone of questions, and related requests for additional or clarifying information from FinCEN.
As Co-Chair of the Middle East Committee of the American Bar Association Section of International Law, MassPoint's Hdeel Abdelhady organized and will moderate a program on lawyers' obligations to detect and report illicit client activity, in particular money laundering. Lawyers in the EU, for example, have been required for years to perform client due diligence and file suspicious activity reports (SARs) in accordance EU anti-money laundering directives. U.S. lawyers have no parallel obligations; however, U.S. lawyers are prohibited by rules of professional conduct from knowingly allowing their services to be used for unlawful purposes. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has described the inapplicability to U.S. lawyers of customer due diligence (CDD) and SAR filing requirements as a weak spot in the U.S. anti-money laundering framework. Members of Congress have introduced legislation to apply such obligations to U.S. lawyers, and to require U.S. lawyers to collect and share with law enforcement authorities beneficial ownership information where lawyers directly form companies, trusts, and certain other entities for clients.
As banks continue to manage regulatory and risk complexity, they should add Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and general business conduct issues to their nonfinancial risk matrices. ESG and business conduct issues—whether or not the subject to legal prescriptions— are no longer ancillary to risk and reputation management. Nor can ESG and business conduct awareness be regarded as merely ornamentation to enhance corporate appearance (or conceal corporate blemishes).
On February 13, 2017, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced in the Senate the “Stop Terrorist Operational Resources and Money Act” (the “STORM Act”). The purpose of the STORM Act is to “establish a designation for jurisdictions permissive to terrorism financing, to build the capacity of partner nations to investigate, prosecute, and hold accountable terrorist financiers, to impose restrictions on foreign financial institutions that provide financial services for terrorist organizations, and for other purposes.” The STORM Act would permit the President to designate a country as a “Jurisdiction of Terrorism Financing Concern” upon determining that “government officials know, or should know, that activities are taking place within the country that substantially finance the operations of, or acts of international terrorism by, foreign terrorist organizations.”
The Trump Administration's positions on countering the financing of terrorism were articulated by Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin during his confirmation hearings, where he expressed his commitment to working unilaterally and multilaterally to combat terrorism financing (see, for example, hearing segment starting at 55:18). The Administration's interest in strengthening CFT is shared on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, where the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Financial Services recently released the results of a 2-year investigation of terrorism financing and, among other measures, recommended that the United States adopt a "whole-of-government" strategy to combat terrorism financing.