U.S. authorities have unfairly escalated the penalties for Bank Secrecy Act violations by overusing criminal proceedings in cases that should be considered civil matters to be solved by regulators, legal professionals say. The Justice Department in the past five years has won a number of guilty pleas or reached deferred prosecution agreements in criminal cases involving financial institutions that failed to establish an anti-money laundering program or report suspicious activity. The willful failure to file a suspicious activity report (SAR) is a crime under the Bank Secrecy Act, but the federal government has discretion in deciding whether it is pursued...
The U.S. Justice Department will more aggressively use legal tools to freeze assets and detect financial wrongdoing as part of a larger strategy to combat international organized crime, the department said today.
The Justice Department issued a memo on March 7 outlining principles that prosecutors should use when assigning monitors for deferred prosecution agreements. The department came under fire for awarding a $25 million monitoring contract to a firm run by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Sigue, based in San Fernando, Calif., will forfeit $15 million and spend $9.7 million to upgrade its AML program as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department. Fortent Inform first reported the record penalty on January 11.