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  • FinCEN encourages financial institutions affected by Hurricane Michael to communicate Bank Secrecy Act filing delays; extends FBAR filing deadline

    Financial Crimes

    On October 15, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice to financial institutions that file Bank Secrecy Act reports to encourage communication with FinCEN and their functional regulators regarding any expected filing delays caused by Hurricane Michael. FinCEN also reminded financial institutions to review advisory FIN-2017-A007, previously covered by InfoBytes, which discusses potential fraudulent activity related to recent disaster relief schemes.

    The same day, FinCEN issued a second notice for certain filers affected by Hurricane Michael to extend the deadline for submitting their 2017 calendar year Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs). FBARs for affected filers are now due February 28, 2019.

    Find more InfoBytes disaster relief coverage here.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Disaster Relief Bank Secrecy Act

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  • NYDFS orders United Arab Emirates-based bank to pay $40 million for BSA/AML violations

    Financial Crimes

    On October 10, NYDFS entered into a consent order with a United Arab Emirates-based bank and its New York branch to resolve alleged violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws related to the branch’s U.S. dollar clearing operations for foreign customers located in high risk jurisdictions. The alleged violations were discovered during examinations conducted in 2016 by the NYDFS and 2017 by the NYDFS and Federal Reserve Bank of New York. During this time, NYDFS downgraded the bank’s score due to certain alleged deficiencies identified in the branch’s BSA/AML programs and policies designed to ensure compliance with OFAC regulations. According to the consent order, among other things, the branch (i) failed to maintain adequate transaction monitoring and had deficient recordkeeping practices; (iii) “maintained insufficient documentation concerning its dispositions of OFAC alerts and cases”; (iv) failed to substantiate its rationales for waiving specific alerts and cases; and (v) failed to sufficiently oversee the third-party auditor who conducted the branch’s 2017 BSA/AML audit and remedial work evaluation.

    The United Arab Emirates-based bank and its New York branch are required to pay a $40 million civil money penalty, and must also engage an independent third party to assist the branch in addressing its BSA/AML compliance deficiencies and develop (i) a BSA/AML compliance program; (ii) a suspicious activity monitoring and reporting program; (iii) a customer due-diligence program; and (iv) a plan to enhance oversight of the branch’s BSA/AML corporate governance and management oversight.

    Financial Crimes NYDFS Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering OFAC

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  • Federal, state financial regulatory agencies issue guidance for institutions affected by Hurricane Michael

    Federal Issues

    On October 10, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (collectively, the “agencies”) issued a joint statement providing guidance to financial institutions impacted by Hurricane Michael. The agencies encouraged lenders to work with borrowers in impacted communities to modify loans as appropriate based on the facts and circumstances of each borrower and loan. In addition, the agencies assured lenders that they would (i) expedite any request to operate temporary facilities to provide more convenient services to those affected by Hurricane Michael; (ii) not generally assess penalties for institutions who take prudent steps to satisfy any publishing or reporting requirements, including by contacting their state or federal regulator to discuss satisfaction of such requirements; and (iii) consider granting institutions favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery.

    On the same day the joint statement was issued, the FDIC issued a statement encouraging depository institutions to assist affected customers (see FIL-59-2018), which may include “waiving fees, increasing ATM cash limits, easing credit card limits, allowing loan customers to defer or skip payments, and delaying the submission of delinquency notices to credit bureaus.” The FDIC also encouraged depository institutions to use Bank Secrecy Act-permitted “non-documentary verification methods” for customers unable to provide standard identification documents and stated that prudent efforts taken to meet customers’ cash and financial needs “generally will not be subject to examiner criticism.”

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.

    Federal Issues FDIC OCC Federal Reserve Disaster Relief CRA Bank Secrecy Act Consumer Finance

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  • FinCEN issues advisory warning U.S. financial institutions of risks linked to Nicaraguan corruption

    Financial Crimes

    On October 4, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued advisory FIN-2018-A005 to U.S. financial institutions to increase awareness of the growing risk that certain Nicaraguan senior foreign political figures may potentially move assets using the U.S. financial system in reaction to a “perceived threat of further unrest, potential sanctions, or other factors.” FinCEN warns that the assets could be the proceeds of corruption and may be directed into U.S. accounts, or laundered through the U.S. financial system. The advisory—which is underscored by actions taken against Nicaraguan officials involved in corruption and human rights abuse pursuant to the Global Magnitsky sanctions program, as previously covered by InfoBytes—provides due diligence guidance for U.S. financial institutions consistent with existing Bank Secrecy Act obligations. It also reminds financial institutions of their suspicious activity report filing obligations and of the potential need to refer to advisory FIN-2018-A003 released last June on the use of financial facilitators to gain access to global financial systems for the purpose of moving or hiding illicit proceeds and evading U.S. and global sanctions. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) 

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act SARs Anti-Money Laundering Sanctions

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  • Agencies permit bank resource sharing for Bank Secrecy Act compliance

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On October 3, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC (together, the agencies) issued an interagency statement outlining instances where banks and credit unions may choose to enter into collaborative arrangements to share resources in order to more efficiently and effectively manage their Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) obligations. The statement noted that collaborative arrangements are most suitable for “banks with a community focus, less complex operations, and lower-risk profiles for money laundering or terrorist financing.” The agencies described several examples in which collaboration between banks may be beneficial, such as (i) conducting internal control functions, including reviewing and drafting BSA/AML policies and procedures and risk-based customer identification and account monitoring processes; (ii) sharing resources for BSA/AML independent testing; and (iii) conducting BSA/AML training on regulatory requirements and internal policies, procedures, and processes. Other potential benefits include cost reductions, increases in operational efficiencies, and the availability to leverage specialized expertise.

    However, the agencies cautioned that banks who choose to enter into collaborative agreements should carefully consider the associated risks “in relation to the bank’s risk profile, adequate documentation, consideration of legal restrictions, and the establishment of appropriate oversight mechanisms.” Moreover, banks should ensure that the collaborative arrangement is consistent with sound principles of corporate governance, have in place a contractual agreement, conduct periodic performance reviews, and consult their regulator’s guidance concerning third-party relationship to ensure compliance. The agencies further noted that “each bank is responsible for ensuring compliance with BSA requirements. Sharing resources in no way relieves a bank of this responsibility.” The interagency statement emphasizes that it is not applicable “to collaborative arrangements or consortia formed for the purpose of sharing information under Section 314(b) of the USA PATRIOT Act,” and “banks that form collaborative arrangements as described in this interagency statement are not an association for purposes of Section 314(b) of the USA PATRIOT Act.”

    (See also Federal Reserve Board press release, FDIC press release, NCUA press release, and OCC press release and Bulletin 2018-36.)

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Reserve FDIC OCC FinCEN NCUA Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Bank Compliance

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  • FinCEN, federal banking agencies provide exemption from customer identification program requirements for premium finance loans

    Financial Crimes

    On September 27, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC (together, the agencies) collectively issued an interagency order announcing an exemption from the requirements of the customer identification program (CIP) rules for premium finance loans extended by banks to commercial customers. The exemption, which is effective immediately, will facilitate short-term financing to business to aid in the purchase of property and casualty insurance policies. The order states that FinCEN believes these types of loans present a low risk for money laundering due to the “purpose for which the loans are extended and the limitations on the ability of a customer to use such funds for any other purpose.” However, banks engaged in premium finance lending are still required to comply with all other regulatory requirements implementing the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), including filing suspicious activity reports. The federal banking agencies further determined that the order granting this exemption is consistent with both the purposes of the BSA and safe and sound banking practices. (See also Federal Reserve Board SR 18-6, FDIC FIL-52-2018, and OCC Bulletin 2018-35.)

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism OCC Federal Reserve FDIC NCUA Bank Secrecy Act Insurance

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  • FinCEN encourages financial institutions affected by Hurricane Florence to communicate Bank Secrecy Act filing delays; extends FBAR filing deadline

    Financial Crimes

    On September 26, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice to financial institutions that file Bank Secrecy Act reports to encourage communication with FinCEN and their functional regulator regarding any expected filing delays caused by Hurricane Florence. FinCEN also reminded financial institutions to review advisory FIN-2017-A007, previously covered by InfoBytes, which discusses potential fraudulent activity related to recent disaster relief efforts.

    The same day, FinCEN issued a second notice for certain filers affected by Hurricane Florence to extend the deadline for submitting their 2017 calendar year Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). FBAR reports for affected filers are now due January 31, 2019.

    Find more InfoBytes disaster relief coverage here.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Disaster Relief Bank Secrecy Act

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  • OCC releases bank supervision operating plan for fiscal year 2019

    Federal Issues

    On September 26, the OCC’s Committee on Bank Supervision released its bank supervision operating plan (Plan) for fiscal year 2019. The Plan outlines the agency’s supervision priorities and specifically highlights the following supervisory focus areas: (i) cybersecurity and operational resiliency; (ii) commercial and retail credit loan underwriting, concentration risk management, and the allowance for loan and lease losses; (iii) Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering compliance; (iv) change management to address new regulatory requirements; and (v) internal controls and end-to-end processes necessary for product and service delivery.

    The annual plan guides the development of supervisory strategies for individual national banks, federal savings associations, federal branches, federal agencies, and service providers.

    The OCC will provide updates about these priorities in its Semiannual Risk Perspective, as InfoBytes previously has covered.

    Federal Issues OCC Risk Management Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Bank Compliance Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • Federal and state financial regulatory agencies issue interagency disaster relief guidance for institutions affected by Hurricane Florence

    Federal Issues

    On September 14, the OCC, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (collectively, the “agencies”) issued a joint statement providing guidance to financial institutions impacted by Hurricane Florence. The agencies encouraged lenders to work with borrowers in impacted communities and to consider, among other things, (i) whether to modify loans based on the facts and circumstances, and (ii) requesting to operate temporary bank facilities if faced with operational difficulties. On the same day, the FDIC also provided guidance for depository institutions assisting affected customers (see FIL-48-2018), which may include “waiving fees, increasing ATM cash limits, easing credit card limits, allowing loan customers to defer or skip payments, and delaying the submission of delinquency notices to credit bureaus.” Furthermore, the FDIC encouraged depository institutions to use Bank Secrecy Act-permitted “non-documentary verification methods” for customers unable to provide standard identification documents.

    The agencies also reminded institutions to contact their appropriate federal and/or state regulator should they experience disaster-related difficulties when complying with publishing and regulatory reporting requirements, and further noted that institutions may receive favorable Community Reinvestment Act consideration for community development loans, investments, and services in support of disaster recovery. The statement also provides links to previously issued examiner guidance for institutions affected by major disasters.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on disaster relief here.

    Federal Issues OCC Federal Reserve FDIC NCUA CSBS Consumer Finance Mortgages Bank Secrecy Act Disaster Relief

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  • State banking supervisors ask congressional leaders for marijuana banking services clarity

    State Issues

    On August 24, 13 state banking supervisors sent a letter asking congressional leaders “to consider legislation that creates a safe harbor for financial institutions to serve state-compliant [marijuana] business, or entrusts sovereign states with the full oversight and jurisdiction of marijuana-related activity.” According to the letter, while 31 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use as of August 1, many financial institutions choose not serve marijuana businesses due to a perceived threat of asset forfeitures or criminal penalties. The letter notes that this results in inadequate regulation, cash transactions that are difficult to track, “a diminished ability to identify operators acting to circumvent federal and state licensing and regulatory frameworks,” and concerns for public safety. In addition, according to the state regulators, the rescission of the 2013 “Cole Memo”—which outlined the DOJ’s marijuana enforcement priorities and was relied upon by a limited number of financial institutions—has led to greater uncertainty for banks that serve marijuana businesses. The letter also discusses the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s 2014 guidance—which clarifies expectations under the Bank Secrecy Act for financial institutions providing services to marijuana businesses—and further stresses that “the Rohrabacher amendment prohibiting federal funds being used to inhibit state medicinal marijuana programs [is] an impermanent approach that requires a permanent resolution.”

    In July, and as previously covered in InfoBytes, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance which encouraged New York state chartered banks and credit unions to consider establishing relationships with regulated and compliant medical marijuana and industrial hemp-related businesses operating in New York. NYDFS stated it will not impose any regulatory action on a New York financial institution that establishes a relationship with a regulated marijuana business as long as the institution also complies with other applicable guidance and regulations.

    State Issues Compliance Medical Marijuana DOJ FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act NYDFS State Regulators

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