This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. We all remember where we were when we heard the news. I was living in the Rocky Mountains and had just jumped into my car to head to work. I had the radio on and heard that a plane crashed into the Twin Towers. At first, I thought is this a mistake? I then switched to a different station, heard the same report and drove to work in shock. As soon as I arrived, I saw the same shock reflected in my co-workers’ eyes. We all huddled around our computer screens frantically trying to get more updates and to understand what was happening. We saw the second plane crash into the Towers and then the collapse of the South Tower. I had a co-worker who had a family member flying and she was anxiously trying to find out what happened to her plane. The world sat in disbelief and everyone I knew started asking the same questions. How could this have happened on U.S. soil? Were there no warning signs? How were we not prepared?
Without question, 9/11 had far-reaching effects across multiple aspects of our lives. In particular, it changed the banking industry and all financial institutions. September 11 brought about the USA PATRIOT Act, the most transformative regulation of its time. Anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorist financing (TF) were at the top of everyone’s list. Collaboration across the public and private sectors was now needed to succeed in combating money laundering and TF, along with improvements in record keeping and know your customer requirements. The most significant accomplishment of the PATRIOT Act was to facilitate the process of detecting and deterring TF, not only in the U.S., but on a global scale.
As we reflect on what has happened in the last 20 years since 9/11, not only in the compliance industry but in the world at large, the question is have we progressed in our fight against financial crimes? I believe we have. I believe the industry is constantly evolving and as ACAMS’ members or anti-financial crime professionals, we are doing our part to continue the fight against money laundering and TF. The fight against bad actors has evolved due to new technology, but the goal is still the same―defeat the “bad guy.” The headline article “Ransomware: The digital battleground” addresses one of our biggest threats today―cybercrimes. The article dissects the Colonial Pipeline as a case study and one of the most poignant phrases in the article comes after the U.S. Justice Department elevated cyber-intrusions to be as important as counter-terrorism investigations. The author states,
“This shift by law enforcement could signify the first shift in national security policy in over 20 years―a recognition that this is now a post post-9/11 moment where terrorists, cybercriminals and rogue nation state actors have taken to the digital battlefield.”
Clearly, we have come a long way in 20 years, but there is still much to do.
ACAMS is also celebrating 20 years of existence so ACAMS Today asked two of our leading subject-matter experts, a board member and a former, Rick Small and Lauren Kohr, to share with us their top 20 list of transformative events that have shaped the anti-financial crime industry in the last two decades. It is of no surprise that the events of September 11, 2001, was at the top of their list. Read more about their thoughts and what they predict will be at the forefront in the years to come.
Our annual conference edition is packed with content ranging from the new whistleblower program to cryptocurrency exit scams, the impacts of 9/11, export controls, donor-advised funds, casinos and money laundering, surviving an audit and a plethora of more topics.
We hope you will join us as we begin celebrating 20 years of ACAMS. These festivities will continue throughout the year and into 2022 with the additional celebration of 20 years of ACAMS Today in the March-May 2022 anniversary edition. Watch this space for more details about upcoming celebration plans.
May we all take a moment during the 9/11 20-year anniversary to remember and honor those who lost their lives on this tragic day. May we also remember and honor the first responders who on that dreadful day ran toward danger to save lives even at the cost of their own.
Karla Monterrosa-Yancey, CAMS
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