Relative to the year before, the anti-money laundering (AML) compliance industry drew few headlines over the past 12 months, and yet no one would tell you their job got any easier.
Fines and monetary settlements paid in 2012 by banks for anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing violations increased 131-fold from the previous year, ACAMS moneylaundering.com data shows.
For many anti-money laundering and sanctions professionals, 2012 will be remembered as a year of record fines. Banks paid billions to settle AML and sanctions compliance violations, with one penalty alone reaching almost $2 billion.
The number of federal anti-money laundering enforcement actions issued in the first half of 2012 fell by 35 percent in comparison to the total levied during the same period last year, data shows.
The total number of anti-money laundering enforcement fines handed down by federal regulators rose by 67 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year.
The number of anti-money laundering enforcement actions handed down by federal banking regulators rose nearly 48 percent in the first six months of 2011 compared to the same period last year, data shows.
High regulatory fines for anti-money laundering and sanctions violations have prodded U.S. financial institutions to reinvest in their transaction monitoring software over the past two years, a Boston-based research firm said.
The new year won't be any easier on compliance officials at banks and money services businesses, and could get much harder depending on how U.S. officials implement new and proposed regulations, according to industry leaders.
Regulatory pressure grew on financial institutions in 2010 though few compliance departments saw an increase in budgets or resources in the wake of an 18-month recession, say industry professionals.
The overall number of regulatory enforcement actions against banks jumped 52 percent in the first half of 2010 in comparison to the number issued in the first half of 2009.
The total regulatory fines issued by the United States against financial institutions for anti-money laundering compliance problems fell by 90 percent in 2009 from the total levied in 2008, according to ComplianceAdvantage.com data.
Bank closings and enforcement actions for capital requirement and credit risk violations didn't preclude law enforcement and regulatory officials from pursuing banks for violating U.S. and international sanctions in 2009 or from leaning on financial institutions to catch tax cheats.
Banking regulators issued 23 enforcement actions in the first half of 2009, slightly more than for the same period in 2008, according to Inform data.