FinCEN Hands Down Anti-Money Laundering Priorities To Stop Cybercrime

FinCEN, AML, FATF, financial institutions, priorities

New expansive anti-money laundering (AML) priorities for financial institutions were recently handed down by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

The government watchdog said the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has advised that the focus of compliance resources should target corruption and cybercrime, according to a FinCEN press release. The priorities include corruption, cybercrime, foreign and domestic terrorist financing, fraud, human trafficking, proliferation financing and transnational criminal organization and drug trafficking organization activity.

The list of priorities is the first FinCEN has issued and follows the January overhaul of AML legislation. The new laws passed by Congress tasked FinCEN with creating a blueprint to prevent the financing of money laundering and terrorism, and updating priorities every four years, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

“This was a real opportunity to focus financial intelligence in the U.S. in a way that could create better outcomes for everybody,” former FinCEN official Jeremy Kuester told WSJ. 

“Prioritization is the way to do it, but these aren’t priorities, they are just general topics,” he added. Kuester currently works as counsel at law firm White & Case LLP.

Globally, the cost of financial crime compliance is estimated to be almost $214 billion in 2021, WSJ reported, citing a survey by LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Some 3 million reports concerning suspicious activity are filed with FinCEN every year. 

“Plenty of work remains to turn these priorities into rules around implementing these priorities into AML programs, but we look forward to engaging with FinCEN and consider the announcement an encouraging first step,” Angelena Bradfield, a senior vice president for the Bank Policy Institute, told the WSJ.

The FBI said earlier in June that it is stepping up its approach to finding hackers, an edict that has raised concerns among some civil liberties advocates. The new tactics could have sprung from the recent attack on Microsoft Exchange email servers.

The digital-first economy that was accelerated during the pandemic has attracted cybercriminals well-versed in the best ways to scam money from novice individuals and unsuspecting corporates.