Changed Laws Alone Won't Prevent Money Laundering

Article excerpt

The new banking laws passed as part of the U.S. Patriot Act have brought those of us in the financial services industry firmly into a new era.

No other single industry lost more of its leadership in the tragic events of Sept. 11th than the financial community. We at International Bank of Commerce lost 66 friends and colleagues at the World Trade Center.

This alone makes the recent news accounts that lead Americans to believe that the banking industry is somehow against thwarting terrorism all the more appalling.

Through the years the banking industry has been a steadfast advocate for the privacy rights of all Americans. We have worked with the national leadership to provide input on responsible legislation that balances the needs of law enforcement with the basic rights of individuals upon which this country was founded. And now this vigilance on behalf of privacy rights is being misconstrued.

Never was any of the legislation under consideration focused on the actions of terrorist organizations, and it is grossly inaccurate to make that inference. The statutes proposed were focused on money laundering and drug trafficking. Most of our country's leadership, including President Bush, shared the concern of privacy advocates and many consumer groups.

Since Sept. 11 we have been forced to view every aspect of our lives -- transportation, financial transactions, even the mail system -- through a different lens.

The banking industry has always worked very diligently with law enforcement agencies to stop the use of the American financial system for nefarious purposes. As the largest minority-owned bank in the nation, with a strong foundation on the U.S.-Mexico border, we at International Bank of Commerce in particular have always faced considerable scrutiny.

There is an assumption that banks along the border are more vulnerable to suspicious financial transactions. For that reason, we are especially vigilant and have a reputation among our peers and regulators as a strongly compliant institution.

Our considerable experience allows us to be a resource to the many federal agencies who develop and enforce the laws and regulations, to members of Congress who have sought information and advice, to task forces and committees that are researching and creating reports, to trade organizations, and to many other groups too numerous to mention.

We recognize, better than most, the tremendous challenges facing law enforcement. …