As a depository institution and being under the BSA since 1970, your employees should know the BSA/AML, money laundering and cash reporting issues better than any other industry. But the truth of the matter is that many do not know it nearly as well as they should. Not that you don’t have an AML Program or you have not conducted BSA training for your employees. But, the main reason banks have occasional issues is because they have one of the highest employee turnover rates compared to other industries, especially the larger banks and are constantly training new employees. And many times that training falls very short of what training should do for the teller on the front lines. Some of the most cost effective training conducted by banks is on the computer, but this may be some of the least effective training for the employee. Not because the material is wrong or bad, but because many tellers forget most of the material shortly after completing the training and often times the answers are not their own. In addition, many have stated that the material and questions are so basic and easy that you really don’t have to know the material in order to come up with the correct answer. That comes from bank management and tellers, not me.
I conducted the BSA training for most of the banks (thousands of tellers), in Louisiana and some in Mississippi and Alabama, for most of my 28 year career, so I am a firm believer in face to face training. There’s nothing like having someone in front of your employees telling them what will happen to them if they do something they shouldn’t do. The reason I believe in face to face training is because Louisiana has not had a bank heavily fined or prosecuted for BSA issues since about 1984, just before I began offering the training. I can’t say with 100% certainty that my training was the reason, but I would like to think that it had a lot to do with it. That can’t be said for many other states that have not had the face to face training, except from management. I have seen and reviewed many online training courses and have reviewed written training materials or heard training performed from upper management. And although the methods and material may give your employees the basics, if they are listening at all, in most situations, it will not give them what they really need to know. It cannot compare to having someone who has worked and prosecuted money laundering cases for more than 25 years, discuss actual criminal cases that have taken place inside of banks and other businesses.
Money Service Businesses (MSBs)
The reason mostly large banks refuse to open or maintain an account for an MSB is because for years it has been preached to banks (mostly by the Government – law enforcement and regulators) that they should shy away from MSB accounts. While I was an agent, I was as guilty as anyone, because that’s what was drilled into our heads. MSBs were known for laundering money and there are very large cases where an MSB was involved. It’s much different now that I am on your side. And in the past few years the same problem has surfaced for the precious metals industry, which I will address below. Most MSBs only cash checks and have been rejected by many banks around the U.S., when they are the lowest risk of any industry. The reason for the low risk is because the only way of laundering money through a check casher is for them to use illegal proceeds to cash the checks, therefore it would be necessary for the owner of the business to be involved. However, if that was happening, it would be very easy for their bank to detect, because the MSB account would only show deposits (checks cashed) and no withdrawals of cash (because they are using illegal monies to cash the checks). So, if a check casher is withdrawing cash for about the same amount as the deposit they just made (cashed checks), it is virtually impossible for them to be laundering money. Because the “bad guy” does not take money out of a bank, their objective is to get rid of cash (deposit it into a bank). There are many other industries I would have concern with before most MSBs, especially check cashers. If the MSB has their own in-house money transmitting capabilities (other than Western Union or Money Gram), then I would be concerned and very cautious.
I have given a presentation to banking groups concerning MSBs “Everything you wanted to know about MSBs, but was afraid to ask.” I am available to conduct the same presentation for your banking group. Previous banking groups have learned a lot and many have begun accepting MSB accounts, as long as the MSB is willing to become fully compliant and give the bank all of the necessary documents needed to be compliant (AML Plan and an independent audit report annually).
If your bank should require more information concerning MSB account holders, please feel free to contact me. You should also review the money services business page.
Currency Transaction Reports (CTR)
I believe that by now virtually everyone in a bank should know what is required concerning the preparation of a CTR. The CTR has changed many times since its original version came out in the early 1970s. The number of these forms filed since 1975 (3418) has increased dramatically over the years (millions filed each year). There are many banks that still file CTRs for some transactions of $10,000 or less. If you are one of those banks, you are risking your financial future. This practice should never be followed, especially now that you have a SAR (Suspicious Activity Report) available for these situations. If you think about filing a CTR for $10,000 or less there must be something suspicious about that transaction. If so, you should be filing a SAR, not a CTR. With the SAR, as long as it is filed in good faith, you have “Safe Harbor” protection from civil liability. You have no such protection with the CTR (filed on $10,000 or less). The government will tell you that they want you to file a CTR, regardless of the amount, any time you feel the need. I did and said the same thing when I worked for the government. However, the government will not be there to assist with your legal fees when you get sued by your customer. I don’t work for the government any longer, so I will tell my client what I believe is in their best interest.
If you desire more information or a more detailed explanation concerning what I have discussed on this web page, please contact me. I will reply as soon as possible. You can also call me and I will answer any questions.
Also, if you should have general questions concerning a transaction, CTR, SAR or other issue, please feel free to contact me.