FinCEN Advisory to U.S. Financial Institutions on Promoting a Culture of Compliance

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Shortcomings identified in recent Anti-Money Laundering (AML) enforcement actions confirm that the culture of an organization is critical to its compliance. Although enforcement actions are specific to the subject financial institution and the characteristics of the situation, certain general lessons could be gleaned from these actions that could be instructive to the leadership of all financial institutions required to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Accordingly, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issues this Advisory to highlight general principles illustrating how financial institutions and their leadership may improve and strengthen organizational compliance with BSA obligations.

Regardless of its size and business model, a financial institution with a poor culture of compliance is likely to have shortcomings in its BSA/AML program. A financial institution can strengthen its BSA/AML compliance culture by ensuring that (1) its leadership actively supports and understands compliance efforts; (2) efforts to manage and mitigate BSA/AML deficiencies and risks are not compromised by revenue interests; (3) relevant information from the various departments within the organization is shared with compliance staff to further BSA/AML efforts; (4) the institution devotes adequate resources to its compliance function; (5) the compliance program is effective by, among other things,ensuring that it is tested by an independent and competent party; and (6) its leadership and staff understand the purpose of its BSA/AML efforts and how its reporting is used. This advisory describes each of these areas in more detail below. Financial institutions should consider how to incorporate the guidance outlined in this advisory in a manner that is commensurate with their risk profile and business model.