Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Needs Empowered Leadership to Take on Dirty Money in the U.S.
Washington, DC – The Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition and a diverse group of civil society organizations are calling for the timely appointment of a permanent director to lead the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department responsible for setting national anti-money laundering standards and serving as the country’s financial intelligence unit.
In a letter sent this month to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, FACT and 25 cosigners dedicated to anti-corruption, human rights, national security, and climate issues argue that the appointment of a permanent director at FinCEN is crucial to tackling the threats to U.S. national security posed by transnational criminals, terrorist organizations, kleptocrats, and the illicit financial flows that fund them. FINCEN has been without permanent leadership for nearly two years, undermining FinCEN’s critical mission and contradicting the stated security, economic, and criminal justice objectives of the Administration.
“More than a year ago, the Administration released an anti-corruption strategy that puts FinCEN at the forefront of overhauling U.S. anti-money laundering rules that allow the world’s dirty money to leak into U.S. markets. Yet it’s left that same, crucial bureau without the vote of confidence to get the job done,” said Ian Gary, executive director of the FACT Coalition. “It’s hard to steer a ship without a rudder. For FinCEN to effectively safeguard our financial system and help guard against ever-evolving, modern threats, the bureau needs permanent leadership.”
The groups sending the letter highlighted the multitude of critical priorities facing FinCEN in the coming months, including completing the implementation of the landmark Corporate Transparency Act, which will end the abuse of anonymous shell entities in the U.S. by Russian oligarchs, human rights abusers, and other international and domestic bad actors. Anticipated FinCEN rulemakings will also be central to tackling international money laundering through the $50 trillion U.S. real estate and $11 trillion private investment markets.
“Without a permanent director, FinCEN leadership can’t really set a clear vision or direction for the bureau, said Gary Kalman, executive director of Transparency International U.S. “Given the Administration’s stated commitment to combating transnational corruption, the search for illicit funds held by sanctioned Russian oligarchs and the central role of FinCEN in these efforts, you’d think this would be a priority.”
Signers of the letter include Transparency International-US, Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW), the ONE Campaign, Foreign Policy for America, and Razom for Ukraine, among others.
The letter follows the presentation of President Biden’s discretionary budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2024, in which the Administration urges Congress to increase FinCEN’s budget to $229 million, which is $38.8 million above enacted levels for fiscal year 2023.
“The president’s request for increased FinCEN funding demonstrates how much more work this crucial bureau has to do,” said Joanna Derman, policy analyst for the Project on Government Oversight. “For the past few years, Congress has increased funding for FinCEN, demonstrating bipartisan recognition of its central role in keeping our financial system secure. This increase in funding by Congress needs to be matched by the Biden administration with a permanent director for the bureau. FinCEN needs strong, stable leadership in order to finalize and effectively enforce the many pivotal rulemakings expected in the coming months and years.”
Notes to the Editor:
- The letter signed by 26 civil society organizations.
- The 2021 Strategy on Countering Corruption, which gives FinCEN a central role in leading domestic reforms to counter corruption worldwide.
- The president’s FY24 discretionary budget request, released March 9, which calls for $229 million for FinCEN. (p. 114; pdf p. 118).
- FACT’s press statement regarding the president’s FY24 budget request.