The Antiquities Coalition’s nonpartisan think tank convened the Financial Crimes Task Force to further this mission and serve as an ongoing resource to policymakers. The Task Force, the first of its kind, unites allies from the cultural heritage, financial, and legal communities, as well as former law enforcement and government officials. This diverse group of experts has worked together to develop recommendations for protecting the American art market from money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions violations, tax evasion, fraud, forgery, and related crimes.
On September 24, 2020, the Task Force published their first joint report, Reframing U.S. Policy on the Art Market: Recommendations for Combating Financial Crimes. It details documented risks facing the American art market from money laundering, terrorist financing, sanctions violations, tax evasion, fraud, forgery, and other related crimes. More importantly, it puts forward 44 recommendations to fight back, including new policies, practices, and priorities that can be implemented by the U.S. government, art market, financial industry, and international community.
The $28.3 billion American art market is the largest unregulated market in the world, making it vulnerable to a wide range of financial crimes. This ongoing exemption from standard laws and oversight, which now cover all industries of comparable risk and size, is a documented and growing threat to our national security and integrity, as well as the vast majority of legitimate collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums. Unless and until the U.S. public and private sectors close these loopholes, they will leave wide open the world’s biggest economy to money launderers, artifact traffickers, drug smugglers, kleptocrats, oligarchs, terrorists, and the many other criminals proven to have exploited the art market’s weaknesses.
In recent years, a growing number of scandals, investigations, prosecutions, and convictions have demonstrated the art market’s dangerous vulnerability to a wide range of financial crimes. This interactive StoryMap illustrates case studies from around the world. While the United States remains the world’s largest art market, and thus dominates any survey, these examples make clear this is a global problem. The cultural objects involved likewise span geography, as well as history, from ancient relics, to Monets and Van Goghs, to Dalis and Picassos, as well as fakes and forgeries. Sometimes these antiquities and artworks are central to the crimes themselves, but just as often, they are tools to launder the proceeds of artifact trafficking, drug smuggling, embezzlement, corruption, or other crimes. The criminals responsible range from small time crooks to infamous kleptocrats, from white-collar embezzlers to black-clad ISIS thugs. However, they are rarely dedicated collectors or professionals from the art market, but rather bad actors seeking to exploit the sector’s many weaknesses. Thankfully, if the U.S. government and private sector work together, there is much they can do to fight back.
Unfortunately, dealers, galleries, and auction houses are not yet covered by the Bank Secrecy Act, the United States’ primary anti-money laundering law, which requires at-risk industries to assist the government in preventing and detecting financial crimes. The statute already applies to dealers in precious metals, stones and jewels, as well as sellers of automobiles, planes and boats, casinos, real estate professionals, travel agencies and pawnshops. Congress is continuing a bipartisan push to tackle this major loophole, as seen from this interactive timeline.
If the United States fails to act, it risks our own market becoming a safe haven for financial criminals. This is because other major market jurisdictions—including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the European Union—have already taken similar action to fight money laundering and terrorist financing in their art markets. This map highlights examples of these and other relevant legislation around the world.
As this report makes clear, there are many immediate and concrete steps that can be taken to bar criminals from exploiting the $28.3 billion American art market, forty four of which are laid out here. We urge the U.S. government to work with the private sector in implementing these recommendations. We believe they will do much to safeguard the United States’ national security and economic integrity—as well as strengthen its responsible art market.
The Financial Crimes Task Force members have reached a consensus around the general report and its policy recommendations, although each individual member does not necessarily endorse every finding and conclusion. Each member has participated in their individual capacities and not as representatives of their institutions.
Vice Chairman, AML RightSource
Laura S. Ballman
Founder, Culture Matters LLC
Art Law Centre, University of Geneva
AML Investigations, KeyBank
Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum
Art Law Centre, University of Geneva
Attorney and Independent Consultant
APCO Worldwide International Advisory Council Member
Researcher, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC)
Sree M. Iyer
Marilú Jiménez, esq. CAMS
Wells Fargo & Company
Herbert V. Larson, Jr.
Tulane University School of Law
Colette J. Loll
Founder and Director, Art Fraud Insights, LLC
Dennis M. Lormel
President & CEO, DML Associates, LLC
Michael J. Loughnane
President, Loughnane Associates, LLC
Donna M. Luisi
Senior Criminal Analyst, Department of Homeland Security/New York HIFCA
Executive Director, ACAMS
Robinhood Financial Crimes Monitoring Program Manager
SVP BSA Executive Director, Wintrust Financial Corporation
Gregory Radke, CFE, CISA
Senior Examiner, Office of Credit Unions | State of Michigan
Kevin P. Rogers
U.S. Secret Service (Ret), Office of The Inspector General-SSA (Ret)
Bank of America, Art Services
Executive Vice President, Director Financial Crimes, Truist
CEO & General Counsel, Jewelers Vigilance Committee
Wells Fargo, Head of Conduct Management
Program Director, C4ADS
SVP, BSA/AML/OFAC Officer, Banner Bank
Senior Counsel, Jewelers Vigilance Committee