A recent survey of the financial sector has found a lot of support for the idea that FinCEN Files it helps to examine the fight against corruption in the world.
The vast majority of respondents said the BuzzFeed News series and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists had a positive impact on efforts to prevent financial crime.
The answers to a survey of 340 bankers, regulators, and other financial industry experts in the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, the largest organization of financial crime specialists in the world. Released last week, the poll addresses a number of issues officials face every day – from the kind of guidance they get from the Treasury Department to the tools they use to track financial crime.
FinCEN Files, an unprecedented look at global financial corruption and the banks and policies that allow it, is based on thousands of secret “suspicious activity reports” from the Treasury Department. Before the series was published in September 2020, the Treasury Department warns that the disclosures could “affect U.S. national security” and “compromise law enforcement investigations.”
Now half a year ago, only 27% of those surveyed said they thought the impact would be negative. A combined 46% of respondents said they believed the project would lead to increased regulatory scrutiny of financial institutions or voluntary strengthening of anti-corruption measures.
The result was a surprise, according to Ross Delston, a lawyer and finance expert.
“It has become a religious rule that SARs are never disclosed, never told, always protected,” he said. “Consistent with that alone, I think it enables compliance professionals to release any information release.”
He added, “Initially, FinCEN” – the Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network – “seemed to think that disclosure would damage their work. In fact, it could strengthen their work.”
Congress recently passed an important one law closing a main hole for money launderers, and leading lawmakers recognized FinCEN Files as helping to get it on the line. The Corporate Transparency Act will make it more difficult for individuals to hide their identities behind so -called shell companies.
The industry still faces steep challenges.
Nearly 80% say national instruction on how to combat money laundering is “helpful.” Nearly two-thirds suggested that watchdogs should give them better feedback on the reports they file. Nearly 65% of respondents thought there was a detrimental “time-lag” between suspicious financial transactions and whether they were reported to the Treasury Department.