CBA Letter for the Record on Senate Banking Beneficial Ownership Hearing

 

June 19, 2019

 

The Honorable Mike Crapo                                        The Honorable Sherrod Brown

Chairman                                                                    Ranking Member

Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban              Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban

Affairs                                                                         Affairs

534 Dirksen Senate Office Building                            534 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C.    20510                                          Washington, D.C.    20510

 

 

Dear Chairman Crapo and Ranking Member Brown:

 

On behalf of the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA), we thank you for holding the hearing entitled, “Outside Perspectives on the Collection of Beneficial Ownership Information.”  CBA is the voice of the retail banking industry whose products and services provide access to credit for consumers and small businesses.  Our members operate in all 50 states, serve more than 150 million Americans and collectively hold two-thirds of the country’s total depository assets. 

 

CBA’s members serve the critical function of monitoring, identifying and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement, ensuring criminals do not access the American financial system to launder ill-gotten gains.  Our members promote national security and deter financial crimes by committing significant resources towards the compliance of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), the USA PATRIOT Act, related anti-money laundering laws (AML) and the recently implemented FinCEN Customer Due Diligence (CDD) rule that requires financial institutions to collect beneficial ownership information on potential business customers and report this information to FinCEN and law enforcement agencies. 

 

We encourage the Committee to consider proposals that would end the use of anonymous shell companies who engage in illegal activities with the purpose of undermining our financial infrastructure.  Modernizing the AML/countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) regulations to shift the collection of beneficial ownership information from banks to FinCEN will provide law enforcement with more tools to pursue bad actors. FinCEN is appropriately suited to perform these duties as its purpose is to safeguard the financial system, combat money laundering, and collect, analyze and disseminate financial intelligence.  

 

In addition, Congress should permit FinCEN to create a federal database for financial institutions and law enforcement to use for the purpose of verifying the legitimacy of a company and its owners.  A federal database of beneficial ownership information would provide transparency, enable financial institutions and law enforcement to search and rely on the government’s information to more efficiently deploy resources in the fight against money laundering, and better protect the nation’s financial system from corruption, terrorism, and criminal activity.

 

CBA welcomes draft bipartisan legislation entitled the “Illicit Cash Act” sponsored by Senators Cotton (R-AR), Warner (D-VA), Rounds (R-SD) and Jones (D-AL) that would bring needed updates to AML/CFT laws and assist law enforcement in combating illicit financial activity. The proposed legislation will make important improvements to the AML/CFT framework and provide lenders with increased regulatory clarity, enhanced communication between stakeholders, greater use of technology and enable FinCEN to collect and verify beneficial ownership information of businesses.

 

Enhancing law enforcement’s ability to prevent criminals from accessing the financial system and conducting illicit activities through the use of anonymous shell companies is a goal we all share. CBA stands ready to work with the Committee to pass legislation that will bring meaningful reforms to the AML/CFT framework and allow for the collection of beneficial ownership legislation at FinCEN.

 

Sincerely,

 

Richard Hunt

President and CEO

Consumer Bankers Association