The Man from FCPA can only say it was long overdue—that is, the announcement last week that the U.S. government will require banks to obtain the identities of those they do business with going forward. The new rule, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, announced by the Treasury Department and derived from the Department’s “anti-money-laundering unit, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, was proposed in 2014 but gained urgency with last month’s release by news organizations of internal documents from a Panama law firm that showed wealthy people from around the world, including top officials of foreign governments, hiding money.”
Originally financial institutions were given one year to comply with this new rule. Due to unremitting pressure from financial institutions, however, this one-year deadline has been extended to two years. Speaking of criticism of the new rule, it came from both as sides as banks blasted the new rules because many states do not require that level of information and it will cost banks business if it is too risky to do so.
Criticism, however, was just as unremitting from those seeking greater transparency as they (correctly) noted that only ownership interests of 25 percent or greater were required to be reported, and this allowed far too much leeway. There was also criticism that the rule would only be applied prospectively and would not apply to all those bank accounts previously opened under prior regulations.
Both of these critiques point to the greater need for a national legislative solution that would do away with the current system around creation of corporations, which in some states does not require the identification of the owners or beneficial owners. Recognizing this need for a comprehensive legislative solution, the administration “also asked Congress to address the uneven state requirements by forcing all companies registered in the U.S. to report to federal authorities accurate information about who owns and controls the company.”
Even if this was not an election year, what do you think the chances of the do-nothing Congress might actually address this issue, which state and federal law enforcement officers have been complaining about for years?