Search Results for ‘"know your customer"’

“Know Your Customer” in the news

In a memo sent to the Washington Post and published on his website, presidential candidate Donald Trump has outlined his ideas for compelling Mexico to “pay for the wall” as promised by his campaign. The first item on his list is unilateral executive tightening of banking regulations:

The provision of the Patriot Act, Section 326 – the “know your customer” provision, compelling financial institutions to demand identity documents before opening accounts or conducting financial transactions is a fundamental element of the outline below. That section authorized the executive branch to issue detailed regulations on the subject, found at 31 CFR 130.120-121. It’s an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.

The paper goes on to describe in more detail the regulations that would be proposed, then dropped in a deal with the Mexican government in exchange for a payment.

I’ve been writing for quite a while now about how “Know Your Customer” and anti-money-laundering rules, typically adopted on a rationale of combating terrorism and major organized crime, are susceptible to being turned by government to many other objectives not discussed when regulatory authority was originally being sought.

From TSA to small business lending, emergency regs often make the next emergency worse

My new piece at the Washington Examiner examines how government responses to the last crisis impede response to the next one. The post-9/11 TSA checkpoint system, for example, “is now the one point in air travel where a virus-fearing traveler is least able to avoid prolonged physical or face-to-face contact with a stranger, as well as the… commingling of high-touch personal items on communal trays.” With the COVID-19 crisis, the old rules requiring banks to report “suspicious” transactions are causing all sorts of problems as ordinary customers radically change their banking habits. Worse, “Know Your Customer” regs rationalized on anti-terrorism grounds have become a bottleneck to processing thousands of applications for short-term funds from small businesses not previously known to the bank. Verifying KYC information on a small business, even if it’s got access to all its files, can take a month. Who’s supposed to wait that long amid today’s crisis? (more from colleague Diego Zuluaga on the rules’ failings)

I conclude: of the many good reasons for deregulation, one “is that it bolsters resilience when systems [like banks] are asked to cope with complex new perils.”

Now, a push for more disclosure of who owns businesses

Cato event featuring David R. Burton, Richard Hay, Karen Kerrigan, & Diego Zuluaga:

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed new regimes for small-business beneficial ownership reporting. The aim of such legislation is to eliminate opportunities for money laundering and financial crime. However, the proposals before Congress would place heavy new compliance costs on millions of America’s small businesses while continuing to provide opportunities for bad actors to engage in illicit financial activities. Beneficial ownership reporting would add to an already onerous anti-money-laundering/know-your-customer (AML/ KYC) regulatory burden, cited by community banks as the single most costly financial regulation. Furthermore, international experience with beneficial ownership reporting requirements suggests that it will be difficult to make such requirements work in the United States.

Earlier on money laundering and know your customer (KYC) regulations.

Her Majesty’s “Unexplained Wealth Orders” go too far

I’ve got a piece in Thursday’s Washington Examiner on a remarkable new law enforcement tool in Britain:

It’s like, “Your papers, please,” but for things you own.

Authorities in Britain have begun trying out a new police power called unexplained wealth orders under a law that took effect last year. The police go to a court and say you’re living way above any known legitimate income. The judge then signs an order compelling you to show that your possessions (whether a house, fancy car, or jewelry) have been obtained honestly and not with dirty money. In the meantime, the boat or artwork or other assets get frozen, and you can’t sell them until you’ve shown you obtained them innocently.

The kicker: The burden of proof falls on you, not the government. If you don’t prove the funds were clean, Her Majesty may be presumed entitled to keep the goodies….

Related to the flipping of the burden of proof, the law says information dug up via one of the orders can’t then be used in criminal charges against the target.

…advocates want this to be the start of hundreds of seizure actions against other rich foreigners in the British capital.

Some are already calling for bringing a law like this to the United States, and maybe we’re halfway there already. Asset forfeiture laws, blessed by the Supreme Court, already let police seize your property on suspicion of involvement in a crime and make you go to court to get it back. We’ve been chipping away at financial privacy in this country for decades, through Know Your Customer, suspicious-activity reports, and FATCA (expatriate tax) rules.

Ironically — though recent enactments by Parliament may be changing this, too — Britain’s own peripheral territories and dependencies, including the Channel Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, etc. have long made a good business out of furnishing the rest of the world with the means of financial privacy.

The reversal of the presumption of innocence troubles many Britons, too. For the moment, use of the orders is limited to a few elite law enforcement agencies. One of those agencies, however, is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs — the tax collectors. It’s not wrong to worry about where this idea is headed.

Whole thing here. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).

Buying a home? Feds want to know your identity

Another valued little piece of financial privacy being lost: in the name of enforcing money laundering and know your customer regulations, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has expanded a program the effect of which is to require disclosure of your identity if you buy a home in some parts of country [Kathleen Pender, San Francisco Chronicle]

Related: British financial regulators adopt new approach of “shifting the burden of proof onto foreign investors; they must now prove their wealth is legitimate.” [Jeffrey Miron, Cato]

Banking and finance roundup

  • Furor grows over Obama administration’s Operation Chokepoint program chilling bank access for legal but disfavored groups [Iain Murray, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, FDIC list (not just payday lenders but also lawful purveyors of pills, guns, ammunition, and much more), Hans Bader] Parallel, though not happening under same program: JP Morgan abruptly closes accounts of former Colombia finance minister who is a renowned international economist, apparently because he made it onto a list of diplomats and other “politically exposed persons” statistically associated with legal risks and high compliance costs [Business Insider] Update via Nolan followup: Dana Liebelson at Mother Jones quotes anonymous bank officials as claiming that some account closures are wrongly being attributed to the program, but even in defending it concedes that should banks opt for continuing to service clients in disfavored lines of business they will shoulder distinctive (maybe decisive) compliance costs from “manag[ing] these relationships and risks,” engaging in due diligence, etc. Also, lawmakers like Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) back the program; besides, this isn’t “the first time that feds have asked banks to keep an eye on their customers” since the Know Your Customer program goes back some years. So that’s comforting!
  • “Court: Standard & Poor’s is entitled to discovery supporting its ‘selective prosecution’ claim” [Volokh, earlier here and here]
  • “Plaintiff? Is That Really Necessary In A Class Action?” [Daniel Fisher on ZymoGenetics case]
  • Backed by hedge fund, lawyers exploit anti-terror law to squeeze global banks [Norman Lamont, New York Post]
  • “CEO facial masculinity predicts firm’s likelihood of being subject to SEC enforcement action” [Jia, Van Lent, and Zeng, SSRN via @brucecarton]
  • “Reflections on High Frequency Trading” [Robert Levy, Cato]
  • Banks finally lay to rest long-running litigation under Missouri second-mortgage law (MSMLA), though only after one Kansas City law firm ran up more than $600 million in settlements [Litigation Daily]

Banking and finance roundup

At Treasury’s mercy

How “money laundering” regulations give the U.S. Treasury power to destroy foreign banks [Stewart Baker, Volokh] Meanwhile, if Canadians imagine that the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is something only Canadian-Americans need to worry about, they should think again [Maclean’s]. Excerpt:

To say that FATCA is controversial is an understatement. The law is so complex and onerous to implement that some foreign banks have reportedly kicked out their U.S. clients in order to avoid dealing with it. Americans living abroad are queuing to give up their U.S. passports over it. The other problem with FATCA is that it asks foreign banks to do things that are often illegal in their home countries, such as passing on certain private information.

Earlier on “know your customer” here and on FATCA here.

Spitzer endnotes

  • Well, at least he cleaned up Wall Street; so runs one common valedictory to Spitzer, but Prof. Bainbridge begs to differ (Mar. 13)(and see links at my Point of Law roundup last week).
  • “Should Spitzer really go to jail because of the way he took his own cash out of the bank?” asks Larry Ribstein (Mar. 11). And indeed bank “Know Your Customer” regulations, of which I’ve been critical for a good long time, might now come in for much needed scrutiny (Jack Balkin, Balkinization, Mar. 13; see also). One public figure who likewise faced the prospect of a “money laundering” indictment when personal weaknesses led him into surreptitious payments was ideological antipode Rush Limbaugh, Megan McArdle reminds us (Nov. 24, 2003).
  • Last week’s New York Times article laying out Spitzer’s big crusade against the sex trade, and his successful push for a law lengthening sentences for “johns”, was powerful enough on its own terms. But isn’t it curious that the Times exclusively and at length quoted the feminist and legal-services groups who worked as Spitzer’s allies in that crusade, while not quoting a single source critical of the harsher penalties? Stephen Chapman has one corrective view [syndicated/Chicago Tribune, Mar. 13].
  • Toronto law blogger Garry Wise says that unless Spitzer was diverting public moneys his fall constitutes “just another political lynching by the Monica brigade”, a sentiment I find sufficiently wrong-headed that I’m provoked to jump in with a comment [Wise Law Blog]. P.S. Wise says he was referring not to the governor’s downfall, but to his potential overcharging.
  • How’d the press find out that “Client #9” was the governor of New York? All signs point to a prosecution leak — the sort of underhanded tactic that should be left to the likes of, well, the departing governor himself [Frum, National Post]. Plus: Don’t assume that all the ill-advised leaks came from the prosecution side [Beldar]
  • Should “Kristen” sue AP and other press outlets for swiping her MySpace pics, she might prove formidable in court: “It’s not often you get a case where there’s someone in the room with a higher hourly rate than the lawyers.” [Steyn @ NRO “Corner”].
  • One reader said he had to check Overlawyered to see whether a certain story was true or a parody, so please rest assured: it’s only a parody (Jason Roth, “Spitzer Sues Prostitute Over Sex Addiction”, Save the Humans, Mar. 11).

Defensive banking

With the great work David Nieporent has been doing guest-blogging, I rushed back early before I got Wally Pipped.

An op-ed in the Arab American News by Ihsan Alkhatib suggests that banks are closing accounts with people who do business with Saudis; the “know your customer” requirements and fear of liability for being associated with terrorists make the costs of keeping those accounts open prohibitive. Alkhatib cites my Wall Street Journal op-ed on the subject. (“Banks, civil rights groups and community members should lobby together for change in terror laws”, Mar. 3).

NB Alkhatib’s conclusion “In protecting the banks from frivolous lawsuits, we preserve the civil rights of Arab Americans and American Muslims.” Alkhatib is plainly using “frivolous” in the common sense of “silly or socially counterproductive,” further evidence of my contention that litigation lobby defenders confuse the subject when they pretend that laypeople are using the term “frivolous lawsuits” in the narrow technical legal sense, since the lawsuits in question are not “frivolous” in that narrow technical legal sense because of the willingness of judges to treat them seriously.