FinCEN files will help fight financial crime, say experts

A new financial sector survey finds broad support for the idea that the FinCEN files the survey will help fight global corruption.

The bulk of those interviewed said that the series from BuzzFeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists would have a positive impact on efforts to fight financial crime.

The responses are part of a survey of 340 banking insiders, regulators and other financial industry experts by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, the world’s largest organization of financial crime specialists. Released last week, the poll addressed multiple issues these officials face every day – from the type of guidance they receive from the Treasury Department to the tools they use to track financial crime.

The FinCEN files, an unprecedented look at global financial corruption and the banks and the policies that enable it, were based on thousands of secret Treasury Department “suspicious activity reports”. Prior to the series’ release in September 2020, the Treasury Department warned that the disclosures could “affect the national security of the United States” and “jeopardize police investigations”.

Now six months later, only 27% of those polled said they thought the effect would be negative. A total of 46% of respondents said they believed the project would lead to increased regulatory oversight of financial institutions or a voluntary strengthening of anti-corruption measures.

This result is a surprise, said Ross Delston, lawyer and money laundering expert.

“It has become almost a religious precept that the SAR should never be revealed, never be mentioned, always be protected,” he said. “Based on that alone, I would have thought it would have made compliance professionals wary of any information disclosure.”

He added: “Initially, FinCEN” – the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – “seemed to think that disclosure would harm their work. The reality is that she can assert their work. “

Congress recently passed a monumental law fill a major loophole for money launderers, and leading lawmakers have credited the FinCEN files for helping bring it across the line. The corporate transparency law will make it more difficult for individuals to hide their identities behind so-called shell companies.

The industry still faces major challenges.

Almost 80% said that periodic national guidelines on combating money laundering “would help”. Almost two-thirds suggested that regulators should give them better feedback on the reports they have filed. Almost 65% of respondents believe there is a detrimental “lag” between suspicious financial transactions and when they are reported to the Treasury Department.

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