On August 18, 2020, the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network released a statement providing a brief overview on its approach to investigating and resolving enforcement actions and compliance violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, as the primary regulator and administrator of the statute.
FinCEN explains that the BSA applies to a variety of “financial institutions,” from banks and securities firms to casinos and card clubs, to ensure that companies abide by certain rules of conduct when operating financial and non-financial aspects of business. If FinCEN initiates an enforcement action, it prefers not to approach noncompliance with a rigid set of preset penalties, but instead to engage with the parties, and provide the opportunity to respond and contest the agency’s findings and legal conclusions.
The six remedies at FinCEN’s disposal to address actual or possible violations of the BSA are 1) no action, 2) a warning letter, 3) equitable remedies, 4) settlements, 5) civil money penalties, and 6) criminal referral. Before imposing these remedies, FinCEN considers a range of factors to evaluate an institution’s compliance with specific BSA requirements and the overall adequacy of the institution’s anti-money laundering program. In addition, FinCEN weighs factors such as the seriousness of the violation, the pervasiveness of the wrongdoing within the company, and a possible history of similar violations within an institution. In the enforcement statement, FinCEN emphasizes that its aim is to impose only such penalties as are necessary and appropriate to ensure that each institution is fully compliant with BSA obligations.