Banking

Stimulus battle stands in way of AML measure becoming law

WASHINGTON — A key legislative change to the nation’s anti-money-laundering framework still hangs in the balance as Congress remains at an impasse over the size of stimulus checks.

Congress voted with a veto-proof majority earlier this month to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment requiring businesses to report their true owners to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The legislation would spare banks the burden of reporting their customers’ beneficial owners to Fincen.

The bill is on the verge of becoming law. Although President Trump vetoed the NDAA due to its lack of restrictions for social media companies, the bill had garnered support from more than two-thirds of each chamber, setting up a potential override of Trump’s veto.

The House voted Monday to override the veto, but a vote in the Senate has been held up over whether to increase the amount of direct payments to Americans to provide pandemic relief. Some Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, say they won’t allow an override vote to proceed until Republican lawmakers support $2,000 stimulus checks, an idea already backed by Trump. The recent pandemic relief law signed by Trump only provided $600 checks.

Some Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, say they won’t allow an override vote to proceed until Republican lawmakers support $2,000 stimulus checks, an idea already backed by Trump.

Bloomberg News

The holdup over the NDAA delays enactment of one of the banking industry’s key legislative priorities. While the sector had pushed for more aggressive reforms of the AML framework, industry representatives remained in full support of passing the more moderate beneficial ownership measure.

Some experts believe the Senate could still vote as early as this week to override the veto if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell secures 60 votes for a procedural motion to break the Democratic-led filibuster.

“We applaud House lawmakers for twice advancing this critical, bipartisan anti-corruption reform by veto-proof margins,” said Ian Gary, executive director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition, of the beneficial ownership measure in a statement. “We ask senators to similarly support these critical transparency reforms when they come up for a final vote this week.”

Bankers still hope that Congress will eventually consider increasing the minimum transaction thresholds for suspicious activity reports and currency transaction reports as part of broader AML reforms. Some are also holding out hope that banks could receive more relief through the implementation of the NDAA provision.


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