Bankers Happy To Play Cops And Robbers, But Only Part-Time

Internal policing is so hot right now.
By West Midlands Police from West Midlands, United Kingdom (101 Non-Emergency Number - Cops and Robbers) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

Federal authorities have neither the time, inclination, nor access to watch every penny flow through U.S. financial institutions, so they’ve deputized financial institutions to do it for them. And have they ever, what with nearly 1.5 million suspicious activity reports filed every year. Now, they’ve got to start collecting lots of beneficial ownership information for the Feds, as well. They don’t get paid for it (although they pay dearly if they don’t do it), spend a lot on it and are generally happy to do it—within reason. After all, these people didn’t go into this line of business to serve the public interest. They’d have become, you know, cops if that’s what they wanted to do.

Banks understand the need for the reporting, but try to push back in some instances to lighten their compliance burden, said Lilly Thomas, a senior regulatory lawyer at the Independent Community Bankers of America, a trade group. “One of our biggest concerns is that banks are tasked with more and more law-enforcement-type jobs, which leaves them less and less time for actual banking, but we recognize there has to be a balance,” she said….

Banks’ anti-money-laundering costs have risen sharply, according to a 2014 KPMG survey of more than 300 banks. Between 2001 and 2004, such costs increased 61%, then grew a further 58% by 2007, an extra 45% by 2011 and 53% more by 2014, the study showed.

Disinterested as they may be in putting on a uniform and walking a beat, it seems they might be pretty good at it.

Several New York banks noticed the similarities with banned firms, filing more than 40 reports with the government flagging the transactions as suspicious. The banks’ actions led the Justice Department in 2014 to publicly identify $8.5 million in allegedly illegal transactions by the businessman, regulators disclosed in May….

At the awards ceremony, FinCEN disclosed that such reports, including several about suspicious money transfers in Germany, helped the U.S. add 85 people to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s terrorist-screening database. Government officials also have said they are using bank reports to identify Islamic State targets, including determining which refineries to hit with airstrikes.

More Than Ever, Banks Play the Role of Government Law-Enforcement Agents [WSJ]