On September 7, 2018, Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT) introduced in the House of Representatives H.R. 6751, the Banking Transparency for Sanctioned Persons Act of 2018 to "increase transparency with respect to financial services benefitting state sponsors of terrorism, human rights abusers, and corrupt officials.” This update discusses the Banking Transparency Act's provisions and what it conveys about the current U.S. legal climate around corruption and human rights sanctions, Congress’ increasingly activist sanctions posture, and the risk management and compliance inferences that U.S. and foreign financial institutions should draw from the Banking Transparency Bill when viewed in context.
The case of Michael Cohen, “personal lawyer” to the U.S. President, continues to yield rich legal, compliance and risk management lessons for a growing group that includes U.S. and foreign companies, banks, lobbyists, government officials, and lawyers. Recent developments in the Cohen matter highlight how news awareness can enhance compliance and risk management for companies and others. Unlike AT&T and Novartis, most companies will not find themselves entangled in headline news of national importance, but enough of them are likely to get caught flat-footed by news about them or their business partners and peers (such as in the same industry, where news of one company’s bad behavior can lead law enforcement authorities to scrutinize peer companies in industry sweeps).
Notably, in the two pages of the NSS that are devoted to the National Security Strategy in the Africa context, none of Africa’s 54 nations are mentioned, but China is named twice. The NSS notes with concern China’s “expanding . . . economic military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today.” China’s methods and influence in Africa are described unflatteringly. “Some Chinese practices,” the NSS states bluntly, “undermine Africa’s long-term development by corrupting elites, dominating extractive industries, and locking countries into unsustainable and opaque debts and commitments.”
The Wolfsberg Group first announced the release of the CBDDQ in 2017. However, the Group did not make the CBDDQ widely available. After initially announcing the CBDDQ, the Wolfsberg Group held back after deciding that the CBDDQ should be published more widely “once an additional set of materials has been completed . . . in order to limit the ability of third parties to interpret what it is that the Group intended with the DDQ and who it was directed to.”
The Wolfsberg Group, a group of thirteen global banks, on October 15, 2017 announced its issuance of a “comprehensively” updated Correspondent Banking Due Diligence Questionnaire (the “CBDDQ”). The CBDDQ responds to FATF Recommendation 13 on Correspondent Banking and is the international correspondent banking standard on which the Wolfsberg Group members have “settled“, “committed to being early adopters of,” and plan to support “with FAQ’s and additional awareness raising materials.”
The logic and law enforcement value of imposing anti-financial crime obligations on financial intermediaries are clear. Nevertheless, a reassessment is now appropriate, particularly given (1) increasing legal and regulatory demands on financial intermediaries; (2) the exclusion, through “derisking,” from the financial system of small and medium businesses (SMEs), nonprofit organizations, money services businesses (MSBs), and correspondent relationship-dependent banks; and, (3) overarching questions as to whether the financial and administrative costs of compliance within the current legal framework—generally or at specific points—yield commensurate law enforcement benefits without unduly harming the legitimate interests of individuals, businesses and other financial system stakeholders.
On August 22, 2017, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued revised Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) designed to combat money laundering and related financial crimes in select U.S. residential real estate markets. The GTOs further expand the scope of GTOs issued in January 2016, expanded in July 2016, and renewed in February 2017. In tandem with the August GTOs, FinCEN issued an Advisory to Financial Institutions and Real Estate Firms and Professionals (the “Advisory”) and FAQs.
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.”