Bank Secrecy Act Prosecutions: Why Few Individuals Are Charged

September 2, 2014  |  New York Law Journal

Following the 2007-08 financial crisis, government enforcement efforts have met with a recurring criticism – that individuals have not been held accountable for causing the unlawful conduct of institutions. This criticism has been directed at a series of high-profile prosecutions of banks for violations of the anti-money laundering requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act.

Below, we consider the relative scarcity of individual prosecutions in BSA cases and suggest that it lies in the nature of the criminal violations at issue, which focus chiefly on institutional failures to adopt adequate controls, and in the difficulties of investigating the extraterritorial conduct of global financial institutions. It is not surprising, in this light, that civil penalties have begun to receive heightened interest among enforcement authorities as a means of sanctioning and deterring individual misconduct—a development seen in other areas of white-collar enforcement since the financial crisis.

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