June 16, 2014

Agencies write Perlmutter on marijuana biz concerns

June 17, 2014 – The heads of the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and NCUA wrote Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., on Monday saying financial institutions' decision whether to provide services to marijuana businesses depends on their own risk appetites and business models.

The agency heads wrote in response to Perlmutter's March letter on the Justice Department's and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's guidance for working with such businesses while satisfying the requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act. Perlmutter wrote the agencies over his concern that the guidance was not enough to relieve financial institutions of liability.

The agencies responded to him, saying: "The Agencies will work to ensure that banks and credit unions appropriately meet the expectations and responsibilities FinCEN has identified for depository institutions offering services to marijuana-related businesses, and, through the examination process, will evaluate the effectiveness of the banks and credit unions in evaluating and managing risks associated with providing those services.

"However," they continued, "as the Agencies have stated previously, generally the decision to open, close, or decline a particular account or relationship is made by a depository institution, without involvement from its supervisor."

Last year, Perlmutter introduced H.R. 2652, the "Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act," with a bipartisan group of 17 original cosponsors, including two Republicans. The bill aims to protect financial institutions that provide services to legitimate marijuana businesses. The bill now has 31 cosponsors.