A new poll in the financial sector finds broad support for the idea that examining the FinCEN files will help fight global corruption.
The majority of respondents said the BuzzFeed News and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ series would have a positive impact on efforts to contain financial crime.
The responses are part of a survey of 340 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. The survey, released last week, touched on several issues these officials face every day – from the type of guidance they receive from the finance department to the tools they use to prosecute financial crime.
The FinCEN files, an unprecedented look at global financial corruption and the banks and policies that make it possible, were based on thousands of secret “suspicious activity reports” from the finance department. Prior to the series being published in September 2020, the Treasury Department warned that the disclosures could “harm the national security of the United States” and “jeopardize law enforcement investigations.”
Now, half a year later, only 27% of respondents said the effect would be negative. A total of 46% of those surveyed stated that the project would lead to increased regulatory control over financial institutions or to a voluntary strengthening of anti-corruption measures.
That result comes as a surprise, said Ross Delston, a lawyer and expert on money laundering.
“It has become almost a religious imperative that SARs should never be exposed, never mentioned, always protected,” he said. “On that basis alone, I would have thought that compliance experts would have made any publication of the information suspicious.”
He added: “At first, FinCEN – the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – appeared to believe that disclosing their work would harm their work. The reality is that it can validate their work. “
Congress recently passed monumental law filling a huge loophole for money launderers, and leading lawmakers have credited the FinCEN files with helping to fill that loophole. The Corporate Transparency Act will make it difficult for individuals to hide their identities behind so-called shell companies.
The industry is still facing major challenges.
Almost 80% said regular national anti-money laundering guidelines would be “helpful”. Almost two-thirds suggested that regulators should give them better feedback on the reports they submitted. Nearly 65% of respondents said there was a deleterious “time lag” between suspicious financial transactions and reporting them to the finance department.