The Role of Intent in the Rise of Individual Accountability in AML-BSA Enforcement Actions

Halloran Note


The statutory framework which prohibits individuals at financial institutions from engaging in money laundering attributes criminal or civil liability on the basis of an individual’s culpability with respect to the prohibited conduct. A recent Department of Justice policy shift has begun to place a greater focus on the prosecution of individuals within corporations. This shift has led to increased prosecutions of compliance personnel and bank officials in recent years.

Through analysis of recent cases, this Note seeks to explore how the requirement of intentional and/or willful conduct defines the potential for criminal and/or civil exposure for compliance personnel and bank officials under the AML-BSA statutory framework. This shift in enforcement has been criticized as unfair and overly harsh; however, through analysis of recent AML-BSA enforcement actions, this Note demonstrates that the statutory and prosecutorial focus on culpable conduct undermines that criticism. Further, this Note demonstrates that the recent shift towards individual accountability in AML-BSA enforcement can help serve to deter violations of the BSA, and money laundering activity generally, moving forward.

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Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law