A new survey of the financial sector finds broad support for the idea that the FinCEN files the investigation will 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 poll of 340 privileged bankers, regulators and other financial industry experts by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, the largest organization of financial crime specialists in the world. Published last week, the survey addressed multiple issues these officials face every day, from the type of guidance they receive from the Treasury Department to the tools they use to track financial crimes.
The FinCEN files, an unprecedented look at global financial corruption and the banks and policies that allow it, were based on thousands of secret reports from suspicious Treasury Department activities. Prior to the publication of the series in September 2020, the Department of Finance warned that the disclosures could “affect U.S. national security” and “compromise law enforcement investigations.”
Now half a year later, only 27% of respondents said they thought the effect would be negative. 46% of respondents said they believed the project would lead to greater regulatory control of financial institutions or voluntary strengthening of anti-corruption measures.
That 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 revealed, they should never be referred to or always protected,” he said. “Based on that alone, I would have thought it would have made compliance professionals reclaim any release of the information.”
He added: “Initially, FinCEN,” the Treasury Department’s financial crime enforcement network, “seemed to think that disclosure would harm its work. The reality is that it can assert its work.”
Congress recently approved a monument Law closing a major loophole for money launderers and top lawmakers accredited FinCEN files to help them overcome them. The Corporate Transparency Act will make it harder for people to hide their identity behind so-called shell companies.
The industry still faces strong challenges.
About 80% said regular national guidelines on how to combat money laundering “would be helpful.” About two-thirds suggested that regulators should give them better feedback on the reports they submitted. Nearly 65% of respondents thought there was a detrimental “lag” between suspicious financial transactions and when notified to the Treasury Department.