Colorado’s One-Year Anniversary Celebration: John Byrne’s Opening Remarks

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to be joining you tonight to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the creation of the Colorado Chapter. Your chapter is a perfect example of what ACAMS stands for—an anti-money laundering (AML) community of private and public sector experts organizing to share information, challenges and strategies for addressing all aspects of financial crime. Whether it is securities, banks, money services businesses (MSBs), AML solution providers or former law enforcement and regulators, all of you participate to improve the AML community. ACAMS clearly benefits from your collective commitment and insight. We thank you for creating this chapter and working together. Those outside of AML will never understand our support for one another and how we continue to strive for success.

2015 AML Issues

I do not have to tell all of you that 2015 has been an extremely challenging year. We continue to face the potential of enforcement actions in banking, securities, MSBs and gaming. Terrorist activity around the globe still, and always will, need access to illicit funds and an effective method of how to move those monies. Virtual currency remains popular and the AML world struggles with how to manage the inherent risks involved. Right here in Colorado you have conflicting recommendations on addressing the regulatory and legal risks with banking marijuana businesses. Human trafficking, a horrific crime against society is being responded to by a myriad of financial institution officials but, there are still uninformed policy makers criticizing that much more needs to be done.

On the positive side, there has also been useful guidance and advice on how to improve the culture of compliance, an important area particularly in the wake of personal liability in securities, banking and in the MSB community.

If all of the above was not challenging enough, the AML professional now needs to hear the Justice Department, FinCEN and policy leaders all call for criminal penalties against individuals. To be clear, I have no issue with the last point, but how will it occur? If AML/BSA/MLRO officers are now potential targets, two things need to happen: more internal authority for those in charge of AML and an overhaul of the U.S. laws regarding money laundering and financial crime.

A Call for Action

Those of us that have been part of the AML area—pre- and post-September 11—know that many of the laws and regulations we face are the result of a patchwork of changes added one after another on existing requirements. There is no real example of any lessening or limiting of all these AML rules despite so many new products, services, delivery channels and enhanced reliance on technology. In addition, the so-called “debate” on de-risking is completely one-sided. Financial institutions are the only players being criticized for exiting or for not onboarding accounts due to risk issues and all you hear from parts of the government is that certain categories of customers are high risk without any useful recommendations regarding mitigation. Add to that, the economic concern about the need for financial inclusion, without those policy leaders that advocate for change offering any assistance, and you realize that this important issue may never get resolved.

So what do we need? Several of us have previously called for an AML Executive Summit where everything is on the table for discussion—exam inconsistencies, culture, the SAR regime, other reporting requirements, the risk-based approach and risk assessment deference. Let us continue to push for that at the national level, but those of you here in the region should start your own review. Examiners, law enforcement and all parts of the AML private sector need to have a candid dialogue and perhaps you can accomplish what has not occurred in Washington or anywhere else—a thorough, frank and comprehensive review of how we pursue terrorists, fraudsters and other criminals that abuse the financial sector.

Thank you for your commitment to AML and your support for ACAMS. We are all better off because of your efforts.

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