Anti-Money Laundering

Putin and other authoritarians’ corruption is a weapon — and a weakness

Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, the world is once again polarized between two competing visions for how to organize society. On one side are countries such as the United States, which are founded on respect for the inviolable rights of the individual and governed by rule of law. On the other side are countries where state power is concentrated in the hands of a single person or clique, accountable only to itself and oiled by corruption.

Alarmingly, while Washington has grown ambivalent in recent years about the extent to which America should encourage the spread of democracy and human rights abroad, authoritarian regimes have become increasingly aggressive and creative in attempting to export their own values against the United States and its allies. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian rulers have worked assiduously to weaponize corruption as an instrument of foreign policy, using money in opaque and illicit ways to gain influence over other countries, subvert the rule of law and otherwise remake foreign governments in their own kleptocratic image.

In this respect, the fight against corruption is more than a legal and moral issue; it has become a strategic one — and a battleground in a great power competition.

Yet corruption is not only one of the most potent weapons wielded by America’s authoritarian rivals, it is also, in many cases, what sustains these regimes in power and is their Achilles’ heel.

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AEI: It’s long past time for Congress and the Treasury to step up their global anti-corruption efforts

It is time for Congress to start fighting for something larger than its component pieces. New beneficial ownership legislation, and new anti-corruption laws in general, should be framed as a pillar of a grand struggle to restore American global leadership, expand and spread American prosperity, and create space for new international opportunities with countries that want to play by the rules.

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McClatchy DC: New Panama Papers leak shows U.S. oddly inactive

A new leak of data from the embattled law firm Mossack Fonseca shows it scrambling to contain the crisis triggered by the April 2016 leak of the Panama Papers and attempting to field demands for information from authorities in numerous countries — with the glaring exception of the United States.

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Countering Transnational Kleptocracy: How Democracies can lead the way

In the past few years, journalists and civil society activists have begun documenting globalized corruption on an unprecedented scale, from the Panama and Paradise Papers leaks and collaborative initiatives like the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project to the countless individuals and organizations working at great personal risk in regions of marginal interest to mainstream international audiences. A special mention should be made of Forbidden Stories, a sadly necessary project which enables journalists to “swarm” the investigations of slain colleagues, ensuring that their killers’ attempt to silence them backfires spectacularly.

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ThinkProgress: Delaware ready to crack down on anonymous shell companies

At long last, the U.S. may be moving toward preventing the types of anonymous shell companies that criminals, kleptocrats, and arms dealers have long sought. But just as Delaware, the country’s leading anonymous shell company provider, gets on board with new transparency measures, Congress has taken a significant step back, gutting a bill that could have potentially ended the U.S.’s role as the world’s anonymous company capital.

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House AML Bill is a Missed Opportunity

By Gary Kalman

At first look, the banking community should be pleased with a bill scheduled for a vote this week in the House Financial Services Committee. Several provisions aim to reduce the compliance costs of financial institutions when trying to meet the requirements of anti-money-laundering rules.

Yet first looks can be deceiving.

A previous version of the bill, a discussion draft examined by the committee in November, included virtually all of the current provisions, such as incentives for innovation, increased information sharing and feedback from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and streamlining of suspicious activity reporting. But one provision missing from the latest draft of the bill is a section to require Fincen to collect beneficial ownership information at the time of corporate formation and share that information with financial institutions and law enforcement. Considering Fincen’s new customer due diligence rule, which requires banks to identify beneficial owners of certain corporate bank accounts, this provision would have reduced compliance costs and potential liability should banks find themselves at odds with their regulators over AML compliance.

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Quartz: House Republicans are gutting a bill to fight money-laundering

House Republicans this week axed a key passage in a bill that is deemed crucial in the fight to stop kleptocrats, drug traffickers and terrorists from laundering money through the US.

The original legislation would have forced anyone setting up a company in the US to tell authorities who the actual owner was. Law enforcement, anti-corruption groups and national security experts say this is essential in fighting crimes that range from child trafficking to Russian election hacking; America’s opaque incorporation laws can otherwise make it impossible to find out who is behind a company benefiting from such crimes.

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Testimony to House Financial Services Committee on Implementation of FinCEN’s CDD Rule

Gary Kalman, the executive director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit on Friday, April 27, 2018 at a hearing regarding the implementation of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN) rule on Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions.

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