The Bank Secrecy Act: Not All About Banks Or Secrecy

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

This article discusses the Bank Secrecy Act, which includes elements of the Patriot Act and other pieces of legislation, and requires U.S. financial institutions to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. This year has seen a number of enforcement actions against banks and other financial institutions for anti-money laundering infractions. This has been part of a pattern of increased enforcement of anti-money laundering laws in an effort to prevent the transfer of illicit funds related to criminal schemes ranging from drug trafficking to consumer fraud to terrorism. News coverage of Bank Secrecy Act related cases does little to explain the underlying statute and there are often misunderstandings about the scope of its regulations. This article helps to clarify these misunderstandings as it explains what the Bank Secrecy Act is, gives the definition of a Suspicious Activity Report (“SAR”), and discusses to whom it applies.