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FinCEN Behind on Anti-Money Laundering Act Implementation

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network is behind but making progress on implementing the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (which includes the Corporate Transparency Act), FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das told Congress.

According to written testimony provided to the House Committee on Financial Services prior to an April 28, 2022, hearing, Das noted that “timely and effective implementation of the AML Act, which includes the CTA, is a top priority,” but he also acknowledged that “we are missing deadlines, and we will likely continue to do so” due to lack of funding from the government forcing the agency to make prioritization decisions, promoting Dim to advocate for Congress to accept the White House budget request of $210.3 million for fiscal year 2023.

That being said, Das highlighted the implementation progress to date.

“The AML Act has helped put FinCEN in the position to address today’s challenges, such as illicit use of digital assets, corruption, and kleptocrats hiding their ill-gotten gains in the U.S. financial system, including through American shell companies and real estate.”

Combating the latter is a key focus of the activity surrounding the Corporate Transparency Act that the agency is undertaking. The CTA “will establish a beneficial ownership reporting regime to assist law enforcement in unmasking shell companies used to hide illicit activities,” Das said, adding that beneficial ownership information “can add valuable context to financial analysis in support of law enforcement and tax investigations” in addition to providing information to the intelligence and national security professionals protecting the nation.

FinCEN has three regulations planned to implement the CTA, the first of which was published in the Federal Register in December 2021 as a notice of proposed rulemaking and is focused on the reporting requirements of beneficial ownership. The agency is currently reviewing the more than 240 comments received on this NPRM. Das said the timing of when the rule would be finalized “is not clear yet. It is a complex rulemaking that we need to get right—both for law enforcement and because of the effect that it will have on stakeholders such as small businesses and financial institutions.”

The second NPRM under development will rules around access to beneficial ownership information by law enforcement, national security agencies, financial institutions, and other relevant stakeholders. That proposed rule is expected to be issued this year.

Finally, FinCEN also is working on a revision to the Customer Due Diligence regulation, which must be issued one year after the reporting requirement rule goes into effect. Dim did not provide a timeframe for when that proposal would be available for comment.

The agency also is developing a beneficial ownership database, known as the Beneficial Ownership Secure System.

“These beneficial ownership reporting obligations will make our economy—and the global economy—stronger and safer from criminals and national security threats,” Das said.

FinCEN also is looking at the real estate market to close gaps in the nation’s anti-money laundering framework. Din referenced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that was issued in December 2021 to solicit comments on developing a rule to address money-laundering vulnerabilities in the real estate market. The ANPRM generated 150 comments and will ultimately lead to a proposed rule, although he said that “it is still too early to identify the scope of any NPRM or final rule.”

The agency also is examining how to use its information collection authorities to enhance transparency and understand money laundering and terrorism financing through investment advisers.

“Even though investment advisers in the United States are not expressly subject to AML/CFT requirements under BSA [Bank Secrecy Act] regulations, investment advisers may fulfill some AML/CFT obligations in certain circumstances,” Das said. “For example, investment advisers may perform certain AML/CFT functions because they are a part of a bank holding company, are affiliated with a dually-registered broker-dealer, or share joint custody with a BSA-regulated entity such as a mutual fund.”

The testimony outlines a number of other AML Act requirements that the agency is working on, including understanding minimum standards for AML/CFT programs, certain information sharing requirements, technology, and training requirements and other modernization efforts.

“The FinCEN team is working diligently with law enforcement and regulatory stakeholders to promulgate rules and take other steps under the legislation that will further the national security of the United States and promote a more transparent financial system,” Das concluded.

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