SAR is a very important regulatory tool, and a financial institution that ignores it ignores it with great peril. The Report is filed with FinCEN, but nearly ever other regulatory body has a link to FinCEN regarding SAR’s. The OCC, the IRS, even the Department of Homeland Security has a link to FinCEN regarding SAR’s. Here’s an example of the form:
This form is three pages long and this attachment comes with three pages of instructions. The instructions are written so that even a lay-person without a legal or compliance background should be able to fill it out. A small financial institution may not have a dedicated compliance officer, so, it is very important to understand that there is a 30-day deadline from the moment of the suspicious activity.
The consequences could be detrimental to your business. Your business or you specifically could be charged with enabling, abetting or in any other way aiding terrorist or other money laundering activity.
Generally, this is not an issue that should require a legal counsel. FinCEN is out to enforce the law, not to prosecute it. Its goal is to catch bad guys and if you are helping them, they are likely to look at your favorably. However, should you run out of time before you can determine whether you need to file a report or not, or you are made aware of the activity after the deadline, filing the form late is better than not filing at all. Explaining the reasons for delay is acceptable.
Should you find that your business is starting to attract suspicious activities more frequently than desired, connecting with lawyers who specialize in compliance for counsel will be a very important investment in mitigating this particular risk.
Ultimately, it is in the interest of the business to file a SAR with FinCEN rather than not file.
About the Author: Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses.