US Authorities Launch Anti-Graft Campaign, Plan Strong Beneficial Ownership Rule

By Valentina Pasquali

U.S. lawmakers and officials disclosed plans to prevent kleptocrats from embezzling and moving funds globally in the coming months, including through strong implementation and enforcement of a new federal requirement for legal entities to identify their true owners.

A memorandum signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday identifies the fight against corruption as a core U.S. national security interest and directs National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other senior administration officials to review existing anti-graft measures and recommend ways to strengthen them.

Representatives from the Treasury, State and Justice departments and other executive agencies will conduct the review with an eye towards ensuring “robust” implementation of beneficial ownership rules and seizing more corrupt assets through civil and criminal proceedings, sanctions and other means, according to the memorandum.

Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, is currently developing the  national beneficial ownership database pursuant to the Corporate Transparency Act, which lawmakers enacted at the beginning of the year.

Legal entities formed in a U.S. state have two years from the creation of the database to upload information identifying any individual who owns at least 25 percent of their shares or exercises “significant control” over them, and update the data if any “substantial” changes in ownership occur.

Corrupt overseas officials and oligarchs steal an estimated hundreds of billions of dollars each year—a sum that may equate to as much as 5 percent of the world’s entire gross domestic product—and often find safe haven for their stolen funds in Western countries, according to the memorandum.

“Anonymous shell companies, opaque financial systems, and professional service providers enable the movement and laundering of illicit wealth, including in the United States and other rule-of-law-based democracies,” Biden wrote in the memorandum.

The memorandum also directs U.S. officials to look for ways to engage with overseas counterparts in establishing global anti-corruption standards and fostering financial transparency, including by boosting financial institutions’ ability to vet foreign aid and other development-related funds for signs of graft and more broadly tighten their anti-money laundering controls.

Two senior administration officials who spoke to reporters Thursday on condition of anonymity said the review and ensuing strategy will pave the way for the White House to build on Treasury’s ongoing effort to shed light on the ultimate owners of U.S. shell companies, high-end properties and cryptocurrency-related assets.

The U.S. executive branch will also review and potentially recommend changes to the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act as part of the strategy.

“We’re looking to make significant systemic changes to the regulatory structure that governs illicit finance,” one of the officials said Thursday.

Biden’s announcement comes a day after a bipartisan group of lawmakers established Congress’ first formal anti-graft taskforce, the Caucus Against Foreign Corruption and Kleptocracy.

Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), John Curtis (R-UT), Bill Keating (D-MA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) are spearheading the push to rally colleagues in several committees to coordinate efforts against foreign officials who divert public funds and maintain power by cultivating “corrupt patronage networks” and exploiting Western democratic and financial institutions.

President Biden separately authorized Treasury on Thursday to blacklist companies linked to China’s military and surveillance sectors, a power that former President Donald Trump controversially granted the Defense Department in November.

Contact Valentina Pasquali at

Topics : Anti-money laundering , Corruption/Bribery , Know Your Customer
Source: U.S.: Congress , U.S.: White House/U.S. President
Document Date: June 3, 2021