February 18, 2014

Perlmutter: FinCEN guidance not enough

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., said the Financial Crime Enforcement Networks' guidance on financial services for marijuana businesses is helpful but not enough to relieve financial institutions of related liability.

Perlmutter, as quoted in The Huffington Post, urged anew for action on his H.R. 2462, a bill he introduced last year with a bipartisan group of 17 original cosponsors, including two Republicans, to protect financial institutions that provide services to legitimate marijuana businesses. The bill now has 27 cosponsors.

"This is an important step" but doesn't address all liability issues, Perlmutter was quoted saying. "We need Congress to promptly consider and pass my legislation to provide certainty for financial institutions and the licensed marijuana related businesses to operate just like any other business."

H.R. 2462, the "Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2013," would protect depository institutions serving legitimate marijuana businesses from federal regulatory or share and deposit insurance sanctions and provide immunity from federal criminal prosecution or investigation. The Treasury secretary would be barred "from requiring a depository institution, and any director, officer, employee, or agent of a depository institution, to report a transaction as suspicious solely because a party to the transaction is a marijuana-related legitimate business."

The FinCEN guidance issued Friday calls for three new suspicious activity reports. Carrie Hunt, NAFCU's senior vice president of government affairs and general counsel, said the guidance still doesn't address the legal issue of whether an institution is violating federal law in providing services to marijuana businesses.

The guidance refers to two memoranda from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the more recent of which specifically addresses potential impacts on financial institutions.