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Friday, Mar 05, 2021

Financial Institutions Want More Clarity on Anti-Money-Laundering Changes

Financial Institutions Want More Clarity on Anti-Money-Laundering Changes

Financial-sector compliance professionals want more input from the government on how to make their anti-money-laundering programs effective.
Last year, regulators proposed amending U.S. anti-money-laundering rules to give financial institutions greater flexibility in the way they allocate resources within their compliance programs. While the industry in general supports the new standards, more detail is needed on what constitutes an effective compliance program, a survey of compliance professionals found.

The poll by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, released Wednesday, was conducted late last year following a September proposal by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to rework anti-money-laundering rules and before the enactment of new legislation in January.

What changes will come as a result of the new rules and legislation was top of mind among the professionals surveyed, said Kieran Beer, chief analyst at ACAMS. Of the approximately 340 professionals who responded, about 71% worked for financial institutions, according to ACAMS.

One takeaway from the survey is that compliance professionals hope government officials will provide clearer expectations on how financial institutions should comply with anti-money-laundering rules, said Larry Iwanski, a specialist in financial crimes compliance at the professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal Holdings LLC. “People want to know from the regulators a clear path of what they need to do,” he said.

FinCEN has proposed changing the definition of an effective compliance program to cover three key elements. One is a requirement that information provided to officials has a high degree of usefulness to the government authorities who are responsible for conducting investigations into financial crimes.

FinCEN’s proposed definition of an effective compliance program was generally viewed as adequate by respondents, but about three-fifths said more guidance was needed to understand it.

“I think there’s some frustration … about what exactly they need to do to have an effective program,” Mr. Iwanski said. Risk assessments were one area where respondents said they would like greater regulatory clarity, according to the survey.

A large majority of respondents also said that feedback from FinCEN on suspicious activity reports filed under anti-money-laundering rules would help shape the way such reports are filed, potentially increasing their value to law enforcement.
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