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Getting The Priorities Straight

This week, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released the inaugural national strategic anti-money laundering (AML) laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) policy priorities (Priorities), outlining the nation’s most significant financial threats. The eight priorities, listed in no particular order, include cybercrime, such as relevant cybersecurity and cryptocurrency considerations, and corruption. The latter of which was declared a “core U.S. National security interest” by President Biden earlier this month, through a memorandum on Establishing the Fight Against Corruption as a Core United States National Security Interest

From the G7 to the United Nations, the fight against global corruption has certainly taken on a new sense of urgency in recent weeks. 

According to the FT, Biden’s declaration that the “US would make the fight against corruption a core national security priority could not be more timely. Momentum is building to take on not only venal public officials and kleptocrats, but also the complex international networks of bankers, real estate agents, accountants, lawyers and other service providers who make their corruption possible.” 

With a new bipartisan group in the U.S. Congress launching the Congressional Caucus against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy, the push against corruption is erupting on both the national and international stage simultaneously, especially as “the transnational nature of kleptocracy also demands bold international action.” According to the FT, “more than one hundred former heads of state, cabinet ministers, legislators, intergovernmental officials, business leaders and representatives of civil society have signed a declaration [earlier this month] in support of the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) to prosecute corrupt officials when their governments are unable or unwilling to do so.”

The Biden administration along with international partners clearly view  financial crime enforcement as a key component of its anti-corruption efforts. The memorandum addresses the “use of ‘anonymous shell companies, opaque financial systems, and professional service providers’ in enabling the ‘movement and laundering of illicit wealth,’ and specifically directs federal officials to develop a strategy to combat ‘illicit finance in the United States and international financial systems.’” While FinCEN will issue “regulations at a later date that will specify how financial institutions should incorporate the Priorities into their risk-based AML programs,” it’s imperative for institutions to strengthen their financial crime compliance programs and infrastructure immediately to get ahead of the inevitable regulatory scrutiny. 

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