March 11, 2024

Whitehouse, Trone Welcome GAO Report on Illicit Finance

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and a senior member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Representative David Trone (D-MD) announced the release of the first half of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining efforts across the U.S. government to combat money laundering and corruption.  GAO plans to release a second report later this year.

Whitehouse and Trone requested the report as part of the ongoing effort to combat illicit finance.

“America is engaged in a clash of civilizations, between rule of law and international corruption and kleptocracy, and it is past time that we strengthen our hand,” said Whitehouse.  “This report lays out actionable recommendations that would boost our government’s approach to cracking down on corruption and criminality, which threaten the rule of law, and democracy.”

“I was proud to join Senator Whitehouse in requesting this GAO report to further examine the United States government’s efforts to combat money laundering,” said Trone. “To achieve a truly free and fair democracy, we must do our best to weed out corruption so that the American people – and only the American people – have the power. By ensuring our nation is in full compliance with Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism standards, we are doing our due diligence to protect the rule of law and the democratic process.”

The report recommends that the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) develop and implement a communications plan to regularly inform Congress and the public in full about its progress implementing the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), which modernizes and streamlines a broad range of statutory anti-money laundering rules and enhances consultation and coordination with industry, law enforcement, and other stakeholders.  Whitehouse helped lead the effort to pass the AMLA.  GAO found that of 31 sections in the AMLA for which FinCEN is responsible for implementing, FinCEN had described its progress on 19 sections.  More complete disclosure of FinCEN’s progress would provide greater transparency and accountability. 

The report also finds that FinCEN should improve the methodological reliability of its law enforcement surveys.  FinCEN regularly surveys law enforcement agencies about their use of and satisfaction with FinCEN’s products and services, such as its database of SARs.  FinCEN’s surveys from 2018 to 2022 response rates ranging from 2 to 10 percent.  Low response rates raise the risk of biased results that do not represent the views of all agencies.  

Finally, the report recommends that the Department of Justice coordinate with the Departments of Homeland Security and Treasury to develop a methodology to produce government-wide data on anti-money laundering investigation outcomes that would better capture the results and effectiveness of U.S. efforts to combat illicit finance.

Whitehouse and Trone requested the GAO review to enhance efforts to combat money laundering, and help bring the United States into compliance with international Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism standards.  

Read the full report here.

Last year, Whitehouse introduced the Combating Cross-border Financial Crime Act, which would address GAO’s recommendation to strengthen comprehensive inter-agency data sharing on illicit finance investigations.  Whitehouse’s legislation would establish a Cross-Border Financial Crime Center within the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate investigations and information sharing related to financial crimes with a nexus to the U.S. border.  

Since 2021, Whitehouse has co-led the bipartisan appropriations effort to increase funding for FinCEN and its anti-money laundering operations, overseeing substantial increases to the agency each year.

Whitehouse has long led the charge to strengthen America’s hand against international corruption and kleptocracy.  Whitehouse co-led the effort to pass the most important anti-money laundering law in two decades, the Corporate Transparency Act, the largest piece of AMLA.  The law clamps down on criminals and foreign enemies hiding assets from U.S. law enforcement, national security officials, and tax authorities behind the veil of anonymous shell companies.  The Corporate Transparency Act became effective at the start of the new year after Whitehouse successfully urged FinCEN to strengthen rules implementing the law.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921