Anti-Money Laundering Lawyers
Banks, investment firms, and various other financial institutions and businesses are subject to federal ani-money laundering (AML) laws. We defend entities and individuals accused of violating these laws in matters involving the DOJ, FBI, FinCEN, and other agencies.
Federal authorities view the use of domestic entities to launder money from terrorist and other illicit activities as one of the chief threats to the United States’ national security. Beginning with the enactment of the Bank Secrecy Act in 1970, Congress has enacted several laws over the past 50-plus years that are designed specifically to prevent, detect, and punish U.S. entities that serve as intermediaries for “cleaning” illegally-obtained funds.
These anti-money laundering (AML) laws are now deeply engrained in the federal law enforcement system, and several agencies investigate and assist in the prosecution of financial institutions, firms, corporations, and individuals suspected of AML violations. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) are the most active in this area, and they often work together to bring charges through targeted investigations and large-scale takedowns.
Former Federal Prosecutors and Agents Experienced in AML Matters
At Oberheiden P.C., our AML defense lawyers include former federal prosecutors who previously spent decades aiding in the federal government’s fight against white-collar crime. We also utilize the services of former FBI and DOJ agents who are similarly experienced in financial crime and other white-collar criminal matters.
We defend financial institutions, firms, corporations, and individuals across the country, and we have a substantial track record of protecting our clients during federal investigations as well as both prior to and during federal criminal trials. If you need to engage defense counsel for a DOJ, FBI, or FinCEN anti-money laundering investigation, we have the experience you need, and we encourage you to contact us promptly for a complimentary case assessment.
An Overview of U.S. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Laws
Several federal laws include anti-money laundering provisions. For banks, investment firms, and other institutions and entities that are at risk of being utilized as facilitators for cleaning illegal-source funds, establishing AML compliance needs to be a priority. AML compliance programs must address all pertinent aspects of federal law, and they must be tailored to the entity’s specific risks and needs.
In the event of an investigation, being able to demonstrate compliance with a comprehensive and custom-tailored AML compliance program can go a long way toward fending off federal charges. On the other hand, failure to establish an adequate compliance program – or to adhere to an established compliance program – can raise red flags during an investigation. At Oberheiden P.C. we serve as AML compliance counsel, and we provide defense representation for AML investigations and prosecutions as well.
We assist banks, investment firms, and other financial institutions and businesses with anti-money laundering matters involving:
- Bank Secrecy Act – The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) is the foundation of the federal anti-money laundering statutory framework. It establishes recordkeeping and reporting requirements for individuals and financial institutions, know your customer (KYC) requirements, and additional requirements for documenting financial transactions.
- Money Laundering Control Act – The Money Laundering Control Act is the law that establishes money laundering as a federal crime. It also establishes civil and criminal forfeiture as possible penalties for BSA violations, and it requires financial institutions to establish compliance policies and procedures to ensure BSA compliance.
- Anti–Drug Abuse Act – The Anti-Drug Abuse Act defines “financial institution” to include businesses such as car dealerships and real estate closing offices, and it expands the federal KYC requirements to include identity verification for purchasers of monetary instruments worth more than $3,000.
- Annunzio-Wylie Anti-Money Laundering Act – The Annunzio-Wylie Anti-Money Laundering Act imposes enhanced penalties for BSA violations, establishes verification and recordkeeping requirements for wire transfers, and establishes the requirement for using Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs).
- Money Laundering Suppression Act – The Money Laundering Suppression Act contains numerous provisions designed to strengthen the federal government’s AML regime. Among other requirements, it establishes enhanced internal compliance protocols, enhanced requirements for reporting suspicious activity to the government, and owner requirements for money services businesses (MSBs). Under the Money Laundering Suppression Act, operating an unregistered MSB is a federal crime.
- Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act – The Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act established even greater internal compliance requirements for financial institutions and other businesses, and it provided the foundation for the federal government’s coordinated National Money Laundering Strategy.
- PATRIOT Act – The PATRIOT Act includes various AML provisions that are both specific and non-specific to potential money laundering activities involving foreign and domestic terrorist organizations. These include, among others, provisions extending the federal AML requirements to all financial institutions, provisions for increased civil and criminal penalties, and provisions for enhanced government access to financial institutions’ records.
- Intelligence Reform & Terrorism Prevention Act – The Intelligence Reform & Terrorism Prevention Act provides for the establishment of enhanced reporting requirements for cross-border financial transactions.
- Corporate Transparency Act – Enacted in 2020, the Corporate Transparency Act requires strengthens the federal statutory AML regime by requiring domestic companies to report their true owners to FinCEN.
Potential Issues During Anti-Money Laundering Investigations
Given the scope of the federal anti-money laundering statutory framework (and underlying body of federal regulations), there are numerous issues that have the potential to trigger DOJ, FBI, and FinCEN investigations. These investigations will often involve the DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) and/or the Money Laundering Unit of the FBIs’ Criminal Investigative Division.
Some examples of issues that can lead to scrutiny – and potentially lead to civil or criminal charges – in the area of anti-money laundering compliance include:
- Failure to comply with know your customer (KYC) requirements
- Failure to comply with Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) requirements
- Failure to timely report transactions or activity that raise AML concerns
- Failure to establish and implement adequate internal AML policies and procedures
- Failure to register a money services business (MSB) or other entity as required by law
- Engaging in financial transactions involving specially designated nationals or other blocked persons as designated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”)
- Engaging in other financial transactions which indicate a failure to comply with the federal anti-money laundering requirements
FAQs: Facing an Investigation or Charges Under Federal Anti-Money Laundering Laws
Q: Why is my institution, firm, or business being targeted in an anti-money laundering investigation?
There are various factors that can trigger federal AML investigations. In many cases, these investigations result from failure to comply with the transaction reporting requirements established under the Bank Secrecy Act and other federal laws. However, tips from employees and other whistleblowers, investigations into other alleged statutory violations, and various other issues can lead to DOJ, FBI, and FinCEN anti-money laundering investigations as well.
Q: What needs to be done in response to an anti-money laundering investigation?
When facing an AML investigation, there are a few things that need to be done right away. The first is to engage defense counsel to intervene in the investigation and begin interfacing with the federal agents and lawyers involved. The second is to conduct an internal assessment in order to determine whether and to what extent any AML violations may have been committed, and the third is to execute a targeted defense strategy focused on efficiently and quietly achieving a favorable result.
Q: What are the potential consequences of an anti-money laundering investigation?
The potential consequences of an AML investigation range from civil fines to federal imprisonment for owners or executives. Anti-money laundering investigations under the Bank Secrecy Act and other statutes can either be civil or criminal in nature—and civil investigations can become criminal if evidence of criminal misconduct is uncovered. As fines and other penalties for AML violations are generally imposed on a per-violation basis, it is not uncommon for millions of dollars in financial penalties and/or decades of federal incarceration to be on the table.
Q: What are potential defenses to allegations of anti-money laundering violations?
While there are numerous potential defenses to alleged AML violations, these defenses are heavily dependent upon both (i) the specific statute(s) at issue, and (ii) the facts on the ground. Generally speaking, however, one of the most-effective defense strategies in many anti-money laundering investigations will be to demonstrate adherence to a comprehensive AML compliance program. Even if inadvertent errors were committed, demonstrating good-faith compliance to a largely-effective compliance program can mitigate any potential penalties and facilitate a favorable pre-charge outcome.
Q: Does my institution, firm, or business need to engage outside counsel for anti-money laundering defense?
Yes, if your financial institution, firm, or business is under investigation for alleged AML violations, it is imperative that you promptly engage outside federal defense counsel. At Oberheiden P.C., we handle anti-money laundering cases nationwide, and our lawyers and former federal agents are available to get to work immediately.
Speak With an Anti-Money Laundering Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. Today
If you would like more information about our firm’s anti-money laundering defense practice, please contact us to arrange a complimentary case assessment with one of our senior AML attorneys. To schedule an appointment as soon as possible, call 888-680-1745 or inquire online now.