The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, is a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury. Its primary purpose is to combat financial crimes, such as money laundering and terrorism financing, by enforcing regulations and collecting and analyzing financial intelligence. One of the critical requirements of financial institutions is to report beneficial ownership information to FinCEN.
Beneficial ownership refers to the individuals who ultimately own or control a legal entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company. The purpose of beneficial ownership reporting is to increase transparency in the financial system and prevent illicit activities.
To illustrate, consider a corporation that is owned by another company. While the owning company may be the legal owner, the individuals who own and control that company are the beneficial owners. They are the ones who ultimately benefit from the corporation’s activities and, therefore, are the ones who need to be identified and verified under FinCEN’s regulations.
FinCEN plays a crucial role in the fight against financial crimes. The beneficial ownership data collected by FinCEN is used in various ways to combat illicit activities. For instance, FinCEN collaborates with other law enforcement agencies, sharing valuable data that can aid in investigations.
One high-profile case that demonstrates FinCEN’s role involves the North America Drug Dialogue (NADD). In June 2023, FinCEN participated in a trilateral workshop with the Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) of Canada and Mexico’s Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF) to address money laundering activities associated with fentanyl and other drug trafficking. This collaboration led to the establishment of the NADD Illicit Finance Working Group, which focuses on sharing money laundering indicators, supporting NADD priorities, and sharing analytical best practices.
In May 2021, FinCEN issued new guidance on beneficial ownership reporting to clarify and strengthen existing requirements. The guidance applies to all financial institutions subject to FinCEN’s regulations, including banks, credit unions, and money services businesses.
Under the new guidance, financial institutions must identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owners of legal entities when a new account is opened. The institutions must also conduct ongoing account monitoring to ensure that the beneficial ownership information remains accurate and up-to-date.
For more information on beneficial ownership reporting and compliance with FinCEN’s requirements, financial institutions can refer to the following resources:
While the U.S. and Canada have made significant strides in beneficial ownership reporting, other countries and regions are also taking action. For instance, the European Union has implemented the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which requires EU member states to establish beneficial ownership registries for companies and trusts. In the UK, Companies House maintains a public register of beneficial owners known as the Persons of Significant Control register.
The new guidance issued by FinCEN represents a significant step forward in the fight against financial crimes. By increasing transparency in the financial system and making it more difficult for criminals to hide behind anonymous legal entities, the guidance will help prevent illicit activities and protect the financial system’s integrity.
Financial institutions must comply with FinCEN’s beneficial ownership reporting requirements to avoid penalties and legal consequences. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in significant fines and reputational damage. To comply with the requirements, financial institutions must understand who is obligated to report beneficial ownership information and how to do so.
However, the guidance is only the first step in what is likely to be an ongoing effort to combat financial crimes. As criminals continue to develop new tactics and technologies, FinCEN and other law enforcement agencies must remain vigilant and adapt their strategies accordingly.
Financial institutions subject to FinCEN’s regulations must report beneficial ownership information. This includes banks, credit unions, money services businesses, and other financial institutions registered with FinCEN.
The beneficial ownership reporting requirements apply to legal entities created or registered in the United States and foreign legal entities that conduct business in the United States or have a U.S. address. The requirements also apply to certain types of trusts.
Failure to comply with FinCEN’s beneficial ownership reporting requirements can result in significant fines and legal consequences. Financial institutions that fail to comply may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, including fines of up to $500,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years.
In addition to legal consequences, non-compliance with beneficial ownership reporting requirements can result in reputational damage. Financial institutions found to be non-compliant may suffer a loss of customer trust and damage their brand reputation.
The new guidance issued by The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network affects different industries in different ways. For example, the real estate industry has been a particular focus of FinCEN’s efforts to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The use of shell companies to conceal the actual ownership of properties has been a common tactic for money launderers, and the new guidance aims to increase transparency in the industry.
Other industries, such as the technology industry, may be less affected by the new guidance. However, all financial institutions must comply with the beneficial ownership reporting requirements, regardless of their industry.
At KYC Hub, we offer a range of services to assist with compliance, including advanced technology solutions for data collection and verification, training and education programs, and ongoing monitoring services. Contact us today to learn how we can help you comply with FinCEN’s beneficial ownership reporting requirements.
Compliance with FinCEN’s beneficial ownership reporting requirements can pose several challenges for financial institutions. These challenges may include:
Collecting and verifying beneficial ownership information can be a complex and time-consuming process. Financial institutions may need to invest in advanced technology and tools to automate and streamline this process.
Financial institutions must ensure that their employees are adequately trained and educated about the beneficial ownership reporting requirements. This includes understanding who is obligated to report beneficial ownership information and how to do so.
Financial institutions are required to conduct ongoing monitoring to ensure that the beneficial ownership information remains accurate and up-to-date. This can be a significant operational burden for many institutions.
Reporting beneficial ownership information is crucial in the fight against financial crimes, such as money laundering and terrorism financing. The new guidance issued by FinCEN aims to clarify and strengthen the existing requirements for beneficial ownership reporting, and financial institutions must comply with these requirements to avoid penalties and legal consequences.
By increasing transparency in the financial system, the guidance will help prevent illicit activities and protect the financial system’s integrity. However, as criminals continue to develop new tactics and technologies, it will be necessary for The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and other law enforcement agencies to remain vigilant and adapt their strategies accordingly.
If you are a financial institution subject to FinCEN’s regulations, it is essential to establish and maintain a beneficial ownership identification program to comply with the new guidance. Schedule a call with KYC Hub to learn how we can help you comply with FinCEN’s beneficial ownership reporting requirements.