On March 16, 2022, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a final suspicious activity report rule, which clarifies the OCC’s authority and establishes the criteria to be considered by OCC when assessing requests from banks for exemptions from SAR regulations.
The final rule allows OCC, under certain circumstances, to issue exemptions from SAR requirements to national banks and federal savings associations, including federal branches and agencies of foreign banks licensed or chartered by the OCC. It is intended to harmonize the OCC’s legal authority with that of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the US Department of the Treasury, and to facilitate changes required by the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.
Until now, the OCC’s SAR regulations have not contained an express exemption provisions, (unlike FinCEN’s general authority to grant exemptions from BSA requirements) – effectively tying OCC’s hands when presented with innovative approaches and technological developments in SAR monitoring and investigation that are both consistent with the objectives of the BSA and satisfy the standards of anti-money laundering safety and soundness.
The final rule requires a national bank or federal savings association to submit a written request for an exemption to the OCC. It states that when reviewing exemption requests, OCC will consider whether the request is consistent with the purposes of the BSA and with safe and sound banking, and “other appropriate factors.” The rule will take effect on May 1, 2022.