BSA reporting and successes, interchange issue detailed

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FinCEN's Thomas Ott discussed the valuable role credit unions' Bank Secrecy Act reporting play in the government's effort to thwart money laundering and other illegal activity. (Photos by Kevin Dietsch)

September 12, 2017

Credit unions' positive contributions to law enforcement's efforts to identify and apprehend those seeking to thwart the nation's anti-money laundering laws and rules were praised by a key member of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's enforcement operation Monday.

Thomas Ott, FinCEN's associate director of enforcement, told the hundreds attending NAFCU's Congressional Caucus general session Monday that the credit union industry supplies FinCEN nearly 10 percent of the more than 4 million suspicious activity reports depository institutions file under the Bank Secrecy Act each year. "That's true for the last five years," he said.

Ott said that from January to July of this year, credit unions' SAR filings are up 13 percent from the same time in 2016. This growth has been greater each year since 2013, he said. He added that credit unions file more of these reports on certain types of activity – including suspicious exchanges of currency and suspicious inquiries about BSA reporting requirements – than other institutions file.

Credit unions consistently provide high value to federal law enforcement in its BSA/anti-money laundering activity monitoring and investigations, he said, adding it's clear their compliance teams are being provided the authority, independence and tools they need to mount aggressive BSA/anti-money laundering programs.

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Mastercard's Tucker Foote urged credit unions to stay vigilant as debate on interchange proceeds.

Later in Monday's general session, Tucker Foote, Mastercard's senior vice president and head of government affairs for North American operations, said the world credit unions are operating in is a dangerous one, and not just because of illicit activity that gives rise to fraud and other financial ills.

Foote said the financial industry faces challenges moving its issue concerns forward. Changing alliances are making it difficult to know who one's friends are, what the agenda will shape up to be and how to advance one's concerns.

Noting the recent stall in efforts to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act Durbin amendment on interchange, Foote encouraged credit unions – the "good guys" in the financial services industry – to stay vigilant. The next time Durbin is being debated, he said, merchants will not only be pushing back on debit interchange but will be seeking to have credit-card payments addressed as well.

 

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