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AC Financial Crimes Task Force Chair John Byrne Highlights AML-Strengthening Implications of NDAA

December 17, 2020

The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is all but sure to become U.S. law as of December 17, having passed in Congress with a 335-78 vote in the House on December 8 and a 84-13 vote in the Senate on December 11. While White House Press Secretary told reporters on December 15 that President Donald Trump intends to veto the bill, the chambers are expected to override such a veto with another vote.

Should the NDAA become law, it would also enact the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, described by AMLRightSource as “the first major reform to the AML infrastructure since adoption of the USA PATRIOT Act.”

AMLRightSource Executive Vice President John Byrne—also a chair on the Antiquities Coalition’s Financial Crimes Task Force—highlighted the strengths of this legislation in the December 11 episode of AMLRightSource’s flagship podcast, This Week in AML, as well as in an interview for an article (“U.S. Senate passes defense bill with new anti-laundering measures”) published on December 14 by Thomson Reuters, described as “the world’s leading provider of news and information-based tools to professionals.”

Byrne’s key takeaways on the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 include: 

  • Examiners from the various federal agencies would have to undergo more in-depth training:  “While examiners do get trained, there has always been concern that sometimes, because of what they’re focused on, they don’t always see the forest from the trees—not an overt criticism, but one I think is justified,” Byrne told AMLRightSource Creative Director Elliot Berman on This Week in AML. “So in this bill … a training program for examiners from the various federal agencies will be created, and it’s got to include risk profiles, financial crime patterns, and—to me, what’s very important—an understanding of why the programs are necessary for law enforcement and how they can result, sometimes, in de-risking. So I think that, in addition to the current training that goes on, this is a welcomed addition.”
  • FinCEN would be tasked with soliciting additional feedback from institutions on suspicious activity reports and discussing trends:  The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 will obligate the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) “to share feedback with regulators—and, in some cases, disclose to individual institutions when they can, information on the utility of SARS filed,” Byrne told Berman on This Week in AML. “I think that’s very valuable.”
  • Overall, its enactment would greatly benefit anyone with a stake in anti-money laundering efforts, including advocates against cultural racketeering:  “Since this is the most dramatic series of potential changes to the AML infrastructure since the USA PATRIOT Act in October 2001, I am extremely impressed by the bipartisan work to address reporting, innovation, de-risking and examiner training challenges among many other areas.” Byrne told journalist Brett Wolf in Thomson Reuters. “This is a very real opportunity to improve AML and to address long neglected gaps such as with antiquities dealers and the art market.”

The full Thomson Reuters article is currently only available to clients subscribed to Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence, a resource solution that Thomson Reuters promotes in its brochure as delivering “global coverage of over 1,000 regulatory bodies and more than 2,500 collections of regulatory and legislative materials.”

To listen to the full episode of This Week in AML, click here.