A new survey of the financial sector finds broad support for the idea that the Lime FinCEN investigations help fight global corruption.
Most respondents said the BuzzFeed News series and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists would have a positive impact on efforts to curb financial crime.
The answers are part of a investigation of 340 banking insiders, regulators, and other financial industry experts from the Association of Certified Anti-Laundry Specialists, the largest organization of financial crime specialists in the world. Released last week, the survey addressed several issues that these officers face on a daily basis – 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 policies that allow it, were based on thousands of “suspicious activity reports” secreted by the Treasury Department. Prior to the publication of the series in September 2020, the Treasury Department warned that the disclosure could “influence U.S. national security” and “compromise law enforcement investigations.”
Now half a year later, only 27% of those surveyed said they thought the effect would be negative. A combined 46% of respondents said they believed the project would lead to increased regulatory scrutiny of financial institutions or a voluntary tightening of anti-corruption measures.
This result is a surprise, said Ross Delston, a lawyer and money laundering expert.
“It has become almost a religious precept that SARs should never be exposed, never be reported, should always be protected,” he said. “Based solely on that, I would have thought it would have made compliance professionals unhappy with any release of the information.”
He added, “Initially, FinCEN” – the Treasury Department’s Financial Criminals Accountability Network – “seemed to think that disclosure did harm to its work. The reality is that it can assert its work.”
Congress recently passed a monument law closing a large gap for money launderers, and major lawmakers have credited FinCEN Files to help get it across the line. The Corporate Transparency Act will make it more difficult for individuals to hide their identity behind so-called shell companies.
The industry always faces steep challenges.
Nearly 80% say the periodic national guidelines on how to combat money laundering “will be useful”. Nearly two-thirds have suggested that regulators should give better answers over the reports they present. Nearly 65% of respondents thought there was a detrimental “delay” between suspicious financial transactions and when they were reported to the Treasury Department.