We Can All Do Better—ACAMS Can Help

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In the United States, we are in the midst of a presidential election year and many are bemoaning the lack of civility in public discourse. With all of the many avenues of communication ("including those known as social media") it seems that competing (and sometimes supporting) interests are unable to rationally discuss major issues of the day. A book I am currently reading, We Can All Do Better by former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, stresses the importance of finding wisdom from individuals from all walks of life. In our world, that means compliance professionals, analysts, lawyers or auditors can all provide valuable insight on the issues we need to address.

Mr. Bradley (also a former sports star in basketball) points out toward the end of his book that "the time for cooperation has arrived." While his issues are public policy discussions in the legislative branch and political campaigns, it seems to me that this can easily be applied to the expected changes in AML that will result from the recent report and hearing in the United States on HSBC. Cooperation among the private sector, law enforcement, regulators and policy officials remains essential to a successful response against financial crime.

Those of us who have been engaged in the money laundering prevention community know that when a major report or enforcement action is leveled against a financial institution, the entire industry can be impacted. Whether it is in the form of increased regulation, new laws, guidance or simply increased and aggressive regulatory oversight, the AML community needs to sit up and take notice.

The HSBC case study goes far beyond an individual institution and the recommendations by the Committee releasing the study covers all related products or services that in the view of the Committee present increased vulnerabilities for money laundering and financial crime.

ACAMS held a free webinar for our members in July to cover these recommendations, and it seems to me, that unless there is strong and open communication between the private and public sectors, we are doomed to failure.

The report criticized the government for some failures to act, and the bank (and of course our institutions that offered similar products) for several oversight deficiencies. All of these issues can impact future AML and related examinations and all financial institutions. I believe it is up to us at ACAMS to provide forums, programs and communication vehicles to assist the AML community as they grapple with all of these challenges. We will provide that help.

Specifically, the Senate Committee recommended, among other things that:

  • Banks close accounts with links (or suspected links) to terrorist financing;
  • Boost information sharing among affiliates (a directive made difficult with competing and conflicting jurisdictional requirements);
  • Increase AML resources—a direction to be smart about tools and training; and
  • Directing the agencies to strengthen AML examinations—a point that will undoubtedly result in more fines, penalties and formal criticisms for years to come.

There were many more recommendations so I encourage all of you, here in the United States and throughout the world, to read this report, which can be found at http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/subcommittees/investigations/hearings/us-vulnerabilities-to-money-laundering-drugs-and-terrorist-financing-hsbc-case-history.

ACAMS takes our responsibility seriously to stay abreast of actual and potential changes in the AML community, wherever it may occur, through production of articles in ACAMS Today, ACAMS moneylaundering.com, our plethora of educational offerings and our new products lines of advanced certification and the ACAMS Risk Assessment Tool.

Whether it is oversight within an institution by the compliance professional or outside by external auditors or regulatory overseers, we can all do better. Cooperation is the key and ACAMS is honored to host any event where those discussions can take place.

John J. Byrne, CAMS
executive vice president

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