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  • FinCEN issues advisory on Iranian efforts to evade U.S. sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On October 11, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory for financial institutions on ways to help better detect and report the Iranian regime's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions through potentially illicit transactions. The advisory outlines deceptive practices used by the Iranian regime to evade sanctions, including front companies, fraudulent documents, transactions involving exchange houses, falsified shipping documents, and the use of virtual currencies, and warns financial institutions that FinCEN expects Iran to expand use of these practices following the November 5 return of sanctions previously suspended as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here on Executive Order 13846, issued last August reimposing sanctions against Iran.) The advisory also includes a series of red flags to help banks identify possible deceptive activity, and provides information for filing suspicious activity reports. FinCEN advises foreign financial institutions to consult the advisory to “better understand the obligations of their U.S. correspondents, to avoid exposure to U.S. sanctions, and to address the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism risks that Iranian activity poses to the international financial system.”

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Iran Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Sanctions Executive Order

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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 advisory reminds financial institutions about recent updates to the lists of FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On September 21, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory reminding financial institutions that, on June 29, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) updated two documents that each list jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. The first document, the FATF Public Statement, identifies two jurisdictions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, that are subject to countermeasures and/or enhanced due diligence (EDD) due to their strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. The second document, the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process, identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. As further described in the document, FATF identified the following jurisdictions as having developed action plans to address their AML/CFT deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen. Notably, Pakistan has been added to the list based on FATF-identified AML/CFT deficiencies, whereas Iraq and Vanuatu have been removed from the list due to “significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime . . . [and] establish[ing] the legal and regulatory framework to meet the commitments in its action plan.” FinCEN urges financial institutions to consider both the FATF Public Statement and the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process documents when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • FinCEN director discusses approach to virtual currency and emerging technology

    Financial Crimes

    On August 9, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth A. Blanco delivered remarks at the 2018 Chicago-Kent Block (Legal) Tech Conference to discuss, among other things, the agency’s approach to virtual currency and its efforts to protect financial institutions from being exploited for illicit financing purposes as new financial technologies evolve and are adopted. Blanco commented that while innovation provides customers with greater access to financial services, it can also create opportunities for criminals or serve as a vehicle for fraud. Blanco discussed several areas of focus, such as (i) the regulation of virtual currency and initial coin offerings (ICOs), along with coordinated policy development and regulatory approaches done in conjunction with the SEC and CFTC; (ii) examination and supervision efforts designed to “proactively mitigate potential illicit finance risks associated with virtual currency”; (iii) anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulatory compliance expectations for companies involved in ICOs or virtual currency transmissions; (iv) enforcement actions taken against companies that fail to implement effective programs; (v) the rise and importance of virtual currency suspicious activity report filings which help the agency identify and investigate illicit activity; and (vi) the development of an information sharing virtual currency-focused FinCEN Exchange program. Blanco emphasized that “individuals and entities engaged in the business of accepting and transmitting physical currency or convertible virtual currency from one person to another or to another location are money transmitters subject to the requirements” of the Bank Secrecy Act.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Virtual Currency Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism SARs SEC CFTC Fintech Initial Coin Offerings

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  • FinCEN updates FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On April 27, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to financial institutions concerning the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) updated list of jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering/combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. FinCEN urges financial institutions to consider this list when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices. 

    As further described in the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process, FAFT identified the following jurisdictions as having developed action plans to address AML/CFT deficiencies: Ethiopia, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu, and Yemen. Notably Serbia has been added to the list for failing to effectively implement its AML/CFT framework, whereas Bosnia and Herzegovina has been removed from the list due to “significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime . . . [and] establishing the legal and regulatory framework to meet the commitments in its action plan.” The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran remain the two jurisdictions subject to countermeasures and enhanced due diligence due to AML/CFT deficiencies.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN FAFT Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Risk Management

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  • FinCEN proposes measure against Latvian bank for alleged money laundering schemes, blocks U.S. accounts

    Financial Crimes

    On February 13, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a finding and notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, seeking to prohibit the opening or maintaining of correspondent accounts in the United States for, or on behalf of, a Latvian-based bank. The NPRM is being issued based on findings that the bank has “institutionalized money laundering as a pillar of [its] business practices.” According to the NPRM, the bank’s management (i) “permits the bank and its employees to orchestrate and engage in money laundering schemes”; (ii) “solicits the high-risk shell company activity that enables the bank and its customers to launder funds”; (iii) “maintains inadequate controls over high-risk shell company accounts”; and (iv) “seeks to obstruct enforcement of Latvian anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) rules in order to protect these business practices.” Specifically, Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin asserted that the bank’s failure to implement effective AML/CFT and sanctions policies and procedures has become a conduit for widespread illicit activity, “including activity linked to North Korea’s weapons program and corruption connected to Russia and Ukraine.” The measures set forth under the NPRM are designed to protect the U.S. financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing threats. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism International Department of Treasury Federal Register

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  • FinCEN issues advisory updating FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On February 9, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to financial institutions based on November 3, 2017 updates to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) list of jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. FinCEN urges financial institutions to consider this list when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices. 

    The current jurisdictions (as further described in the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process) that have AML/CFT deficiencies for which the jurisdictions have developed action plans are: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu, and Yemen. Notably, Uganda has been removed from this list for making “significant technical progress in improving its AML/CFT regime and . . . establish[ing] the legal and regulatory framework to meet the commitments in its action plan.” However, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tunisia were added to the list due to the ineffective implementation of their AML/CFT frameworks. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran remain the two jurisdictions subject to countermeasures and enhanced due diligence due to AML/CFT deficiencies.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • Treasury Department Issues New Sanctions, Launches Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Middle East

    Financial Crimes

    On October 25, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke before the Future Investment Initiative Conference about the newly established Terrorist Financing Targeting Center initiative (Center), co-chaired by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Mnuchin praised the new Center, stating, “The creation of this Center is a major step forward in our ability to disrupt the finances and operations of terrorist organizations” and calling the Center “a catalyst for additional multilateral actions against terrorist financiers. The Center is a result of a strategic agreement, signed in May, between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar, and the U.S.

    Additionally, the Treasury Department also announced the imposition of sanctions against “nine individuals and entities that finance and facilitate terrorism” and aid other transnational threats in the Middle East.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Department of Treasury Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • FinCEN Issues Advisory Regarding FATF-Identified Jurisdictions With AML/CFT Deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On September 15, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to financial institutions based on June 23, 2017 updates to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) list of jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering/combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. FinCEN urges financial institutions to consider this list when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.

    The current jurisdictions (as further described in the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process) that have AML/CFT deficiencies for which they have developed an action plan are: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ethiopia; Iraq; Syria; Uganda; Vanuatu; and Yemen. Notably, Afghanistan and Lao PDR have been removed from this list for making “significant technical progress in improving [their] AML/CFT regime[s] and . . . establish[ing] the legal and regulatory framework to meet [their] commitments in [their] action plan[s].” North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Iran remain the two jurisdictions subject to countermeasures and enhanced due diligence (or EDD) due to AML/CFT deficiencies.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering FATF Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • FDIC Releases Summer 2017 Supervisory Insights

    Federal Issues

    On August 30, the FDIC released its Summer 2017 Supervisory Insights (see FIL-39-2017), which contains articles discussing community bank liquidity risks and developments and changes to the Bank Secrecy Act. The first article, “Community Bank Liquidity Risk: Trends and Observations from Recent Examinations,” discusses, among other things, (i) an overview of trends in liquidity risk; (ii) the importance of liquidity risk management and contingency funding plans as bank management navigate funding, mitigate liquidity stress, and plan for the future; and (iii) “principles outlined in existing supervisory guidance.” The first article is “intended as a resource for bankers who wish to heighten awareness of prudent liquidity and funds management.” The second article, “The Bank Secrecy Act: A Supervisory Update,” emphasizes the role information collected through Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) programs plays in the U.S. government’s counter terrorist financing initiatives and other financial system protection measures. The article also provides an overview of the financial regulatory agency examination process, compliance program monitoring, recent trends in BSA/AML examination findings, and examples of significant deficiencies in BSA/AML compliance programs that necessitated formal remediation. In addition, the summer issue includes an overview of recently released regulations and supervisory guidance in its Regulatory and Supervisory Roundup.

    Federal Issues FDIC Banking Bank Supervision Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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