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Financial Institution Letters
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
National Credit Union Administration
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Office of Thrift Supervision
March 24, 2011
Guidance on Accepting Accounts from Foreign Embassies, Consulates and Missions
The staffs of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) (collectively, "the Agencies") are issuing supplemental guidance to the June 2004 Guidance on Accepting Accounts from Foreign Governments, Foreign Embassies and Foreign Political Figures. This advisory clarifies information specific to financial institutions providing account services to foreign embassies, consulates and missions ("foreign missions") in a manner that fulfills the needs of foreign governments while complying with the provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).1
By clarifying our expectations, the Agencies are confirming that financial institutions have the flexibility to provide services to foreign missions while also remaining in compliance with the BSA.
As with any type of accountholder, providing financial services to foreign missions can, depending on the nature of the customer and the services provided, involve varying degrees of risk. The Agencies do not expect or require financial institutions to define or treat all foreign mission customers or accounts as posing a higher level of risk than that which is established by the financial institution's risk assessment. Financial institutions are expected to assess and understand the risks involved in any such relationship and take steps, like those discussed below, to ensure that the risks are managed in compliance with the BSA.
A financial institution should structure its BSA/Anti-Money Laundering compliance program for foreign missions to adequately address its risk profile, as identified in the risk assessment. The financial institution has the flexibility to manage that risk in a number of ways. A financial institution may reduce risk by ensuring customers are aware of the requirements of U.S. banking laws and regulations and monitoring those accounts for compliance. When establishing a customer relationship, a financial institution should assign a risk rating that reflects the specific characteristics of the account.
As with any type of accountholder, the Agencies expect financial institutions to demonstrate the capacity to conduct appropriate risk assessments and implement the requisite controls and oversight systems to effectively manage varying degrees of risks in financial relationships with foreign missions. The Agencies, consistent with their usual practice of risk-based supervision, will evaluate the risks associated with the account relationship and mitigating controls implemented. The Agencies will not direct or require any financial institution to close or refuse a particular account or relationship, except in extraordinary circumstances (for example, when violations of law are identified that warrant an administrative enforcement action).
For additional information, financial institutions should refer to:
Any financial institutions that have questions about this guidance are encouraged to contact their primary federal regulator.
1 The 2004 guidance related to foreign governments and foreign political figures remains unchanged.
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