EU Lawmakers Approve, Strengthen Push for AML Reform

By Koos Couvée

A panel of European lawmakers approved plans Thursday to reform financial supervision in the European Union, including by giving the European Banking Authority, or EBA, more independence to compel enforcement of anti-money laundering rules at the national level.

The plans, which the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs amended and passed by a broad majority, now include a provision to build a secure channel for whistleblowers to report financial crime directly to investigators, and another calling on the bloc’s executive branch, the European Commission, to study the feasibility of creating a single, bloc-wide AML regulator.

Panel members also voted in favor of the Commission’s plan to replace the EBA’s current management board of national supervisors with a new executive board of permanent EU officials to eliminate conflicts of interest.

The panel strengthened the plan even further by granting the proposed new board power to “request” that national regulators investigate suspected AML violations.

The new board would include “independent experts with a European perspective,” Sven Giegold, a German MEP responsible for the amended measure, told ACAMS “Giving them the power will be a huge step forward because it will make concrete action in the fight against money laundering and better enforcement of European law much more likely.”

It would also play a greater role in policymaking than the current management board, which, while tasked with ensuring that the EBA carries out its mission, mostly focuses on budgetary and administrative concerns.

Lawmakers hope their and the Commission’s reforms would reduce obstacles EU officials now face when seeking to investigate breaches of EU law or audit national authorities suspected of negligence, Giegold said.

“It’s proven difficult to get a majority of authorities to agree to launch such an investigation,” Giegold said. “If one member state faces money-laundering problems, the others might hesitate to take a decision, because they potentially face similar problems.”

The Commission pitched the reforms in September amid a series of money-laundering scandals that exposed wide variations in AML supervision and enforcement across the bloc, as well as the difficulties EU nations face in staunching the flow of illicit proceeds between each other.

EU officials who authored the plan want the EBA to carry out a more “explicit and comprehensive” AML mandate and “address” breaches directly if a national regulator fails to act. But the agency would still lack authority to assess penalties unilaterally.

The text lawmakers revised and approved Thursday will provide the basis for their negotiating position with the Commission and the European Council, which has already agreed its own position on AML reform but remains divided on other changes to financial supervision.

Failure to reach consensus by April 18, Parliament’s last meeting before elections, could delay or even permanently derail the plan.

“The Council’s position is that we’re ready to start talks on the AML aspects,” a spokesperson said. “The question is whether Parliament is willing to start negotiations only on the AML aspects and get a formal agreement before the elections, or wait and possibly end up with nothing.”

Topics : Anti-money laundering , Counterterrorist Financing
Source: European Union
Document Date: January 10, 2019