Magazine article American Banker

Treasury Official: Launder System Could Be Worse

Magazine article American Banker

Treasury Official: Launder System Could Be Worse

Article excerpt

A top Treasury Department official acknowledged Monday that compliance with the myriad anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism regulations spawned by the USA Patriot Act may be a heavy load for banks, but said policymakers chose them because the alternatives would be even worse.

Speaking at the American Bankers Association's annual anti-laundering conference, Treasury Department General Counsel David D. Aufhauser said that if banks and other financial institutions were not vigilant about denying criminals and terrorists access to the financial system, the government would have to be.

"I have heard a lot of complaints -- legitimate complaints -- that this is putting too much of a burden on all of you," Mr. Aufhauser said. "It is technically possible to take this burden from you."

If he raised any hopes among bankers struggling to comply with new rules -- many of which have yet to be released -- they were dashed again almost immediately.

It would be possible for the government "to gather all of the electronic transfers that take place on a single day on a real-time basis," he said. "The number of credit card processing companies is limited. The number of ATM processing companies is limited. The number of check clearance companies is limited. We can get an awful lot of that information -- maybe we can get it all -- and we can marry it with formulas and ask it to show us the anomalies.

"And it is conceivable that the two money transfers made by Mohammed Atta the week before he boarded the plane and turned it into a weapon against us were so different, so anomalous ... that maybe we would have sent an agent out to Clinton, Maryland, and found out what this man was up to, and maybe there would have been one less plane in the air."

But such a strategy would be "foolhardy" to implement it in place of the current plan, in which bankers act as "gatekeepers" for the international flow of money, Mr. …

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