Bank Secrecy Act Reform Bill Introduced in House

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June 25, 2018

After circulating Capitol Hill for six months as a discussion draft, the Counterterrorism and Illicit Finance Act (HR 6068) was introduced June 12. The bill, which seeks to update the Bank Secrecy Act, has been viewed as a possible vehicle to address bank derisking legislatively. 

The major provisions of the Act would raise the thresholds for currency transaction and suspicious activity reports. It also would direct the U.S. Treasury (in consultation with federal law enforcement and other relevant stakeholders) to review current financial institution reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act and its implementing regulations and propose changes, in the form of a report, to further reduce regulatory burdens and ensure that information provided "is of a high degree of usefulness to law enforcement." The report would be due to Congress one year from enactment of this Act. 

This review would include a study of "the most appropriate ways to promote financial inclusion and address the adverse consequences of financial institutions de-risking certain categories of clients, including charities. While the language cites charities specifically, the current bill also refers to them (along with embassy accounts, money service businesses and correspondent banks) as "high-risk." 

The bill also creates a provision for FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) no-action letters with respect to specific conduct. This section would allow FinCEN to issue a no-action letter in response to an inquiry concerning the application of the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA PATRIOT Act, or any other anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing law or regulation to specific conduct. The letter would include a statement as to whether or not the agency intends to take enforcement action or other regulatory action against the person or group with respect to the conduct in question. The letter would let persons or groups rely on their content without fear of regulatory action or civil or criminal penalties. 

The bill's future is uncertain, as changes from the draft version, including language concerning beneficial ownership, have resulted in withdrawal of support from various groups.