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Bank Secrecy Act: FinCEN Needs to Further Develop Its Form Revision Process for Suspicious Activity Reports

GAO-10-609T Published: Apr 28, 2010. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 2010.
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To assist law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes, the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requires financial institutions to file suspicious activity reports (SAR) to inform the federal government of transactions related to possible violations of law or regulation. Depository institutions have been concerned about the resources required to file SARs and the extent to which SARs are used. The Subcommittee asked GAO to discuss our February 2009 report on suspicious activity reporting. Specifically, this testimony discusses (1) factors affecting the number of SARs filed, (2) actions agencies have taken to improve the usefulness of SARs, (3) federal agencies' use of SARs, and (4) the effectiveness of the process used to revise SAR forms. To respond to the request, GAO relied primarily on the February 2009 report titled Bank Secrecy Act: Suspicious Activity Report Use Is Increasing, but FinCEN Needs to Further Develop and Document Its Form Revision Process (GAO-09-226), and updated it with additional information provided by FinCEN. In that report, GAO recommended that FinCEN work to further develop a strategy that fully incorporates certain GAO-identified practices to enhance and sustain collaboration among federal agencies into the forms-change process.

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