Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering Counseling and Defense

Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)/Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance needs and enforcement matters have increased exponentially in recent years, and will only continue to grow in importance as relevant regulators continue to push for stricter rules and broader enforcement authority.

The BSA, together with an array of related regulations implemented by various agencies including the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), requires banks and nonbank financial institutions to undertake various AML obligations. These can include:

  • Establishing and maintaining an effective AML program to prevent, deter and detect the laundering of funds through the relevant entity.
  • Meeting various recordkeeping requirements.
  • Filing suspicious activity reports (SARs) to alert the government of suspicious or problematic financial transactions detected by the relevant entity.
  • Filing currency transaction reports for cash transactions over a certain amount.
  • Training appropriate personnel in their BSA obligations.
  • Periodically undertaking an independent review of their AML programs.

In addition to banks, BSA/AML legal obligations have grown to cover all manner of other entities, including securities broker-dealers, commodities futures commission merchants and introducing brokers, casinos, and money services businesses, such as currency dealers, check cashiers and money transmitters.

Violations of BSA/AML obligations can lead to enforcement investigations and proceedings by a host of regulators, including FinCEN, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and others, as well as self-regulatory organizations such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Additionally, willful violations of the BSA and implementing regulations can be, and have been, prosecuted criminally by the Department of Justice. Accordingly, seeking qualified legal counsel — proactively or reactively — can be critical to the ongoing operation of a registered financial institution.

About Our Team

McGuireWoods has a deep bench of practitioners who counsel and represent banks, broker-dealers, money services businesses and other financial institutions in the areas of BSA/AML compliance and enforcement investigations. Our BSA/AML team includes:

  • Former deputy attorney general and acting attorney general of the United States.
  • Former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
  • Former chief of the Southern District of New York’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit.
  • Former senior vice president and leader of market regulation enforcement at FINRA.
  • Former U.S. attorneys and more than a dozen federal prosecutors.
  • Former high-level government enforcement officials at the SEC.

How We Help

McGuireWoods is uniquely situated to counsel entities on the development and maintenance of effective AML compliance programs. Additionally, if necessary, McGuireWoods guides companies through, and defend them in the face of, regulatory and criminal BSA/AML enforcement investigations and proceedings. Our experience ranges from compliance counseling and policy development, to responding to government inquiries, to assisting with responses to regulatory exams and defending enforcement actions.

  • We advise numerous clients, including several companies in the fintech space, on establishing policies, procedures and internal controls designed to ensure compliance with AML regulations; developing enhanced training for personnel; recommending procedures and controls to ensure an effective compliance program is in place; and performing independent external testing to identify vulnerabilities and recommend measures designed to advance an AML compliance program.
  • We advise on issues involving effective customer due diligence, “Know Your Customer” rules, the filing and confidentiality of SARs, registration with FinCEN, and special rules concerning certain types of accounts and transactions.
  • We represent clients before the U.S. Department of Justice, FinCEN, the SEC, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and FINRA. In these matters, we have responded to subpoenas, conducted internal investigations, negotiated appropriate resolutions and/or defended governmental and third-party actions.
  • We represent numerous banks accused of assisting Ponzi schemes by failing to detect them and allowing them to continue. Often, these accusations were leveled due to the bank’s alleged failure to comply properly with federal regulations. We assist banks in navigating these regulations.

Given this combination of relevant experience and skill, McGuireWoods’ BSA/AML team stands ready to assist clients before any regulatory issues begin, through sound counseling and guidance ensuring that a company has designed, implemented and maintained effective BSA/AML compliance programs. If enforcement investigations arise, however, McGuireWoods helps clients navigate the process and develop successful strategies to resolve them with minimal disruption to business.

BSA AML brochure cover

Download a PDF copy of our industry brochure.