The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has jurisdiction to prosecute money laundering crimes.  The DOJ may bring both criminal and civil actions, as well as forfeiture actions.  Within the DOJ, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovering Section (MLARS) is directly responsible for AML-related actions.  In addition, US Attorneys may bring independent prosecutions, or work with MLARS on cases.  MLARS must approve all prosecutions of financial institutions by US Attorney’s offices.

The Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for civil enforcement of the BSA.  The Secretary has delegated that authority to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).  FinCEN serves as the primary source for guidance on implementation of the BSA and PATRIOT Act, acts as the financial intelligence unit of the US, and assists law enforcement through the collection, analysis, and sharing of BSA information.  Because FinCEN does not have its own examination staff, it delegates BSA examination authority to the federal regulators for the various types of financial institutions.  These include:

  • for banks, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the National Credit Union Administration, which also have their own independent regulatory enforcement authority;
  • for broker-dealers, the Securities and Exchange Commission enforces the BSA both through its own regulations and through authority delegated to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the self-regulatory organization for broker-dealers;
  • for futures commission merchants and introducing brokers in commodities transactions, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) enforces the BSA both through its own regulations and also through authority delegated to that industry’s self-regulatory organization, the National Futures Authority; and
  • for all other financial institutions and businesses subject to AML requirements, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the enforcement authority.  Entities under the IRS’s authority include money services businesses; casinos; card clubs; insurance companies (for some products); dealers in precious metals, precious stones, and jewels; operators of credit card systems; and non-bank residential mortgage originators and lenders.

Despite its delegation of enforcement authority to these federal regulatory bodies, FinCEN may pursue enforcement action jointly or separately through its Office of Enforcement.


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