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Waters Stands Up Against Terrorism and Financial Crimes

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, gave the following floor statement on H.R. 758, the Cooperate with Law Enforcement Agencies and Watch Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide law enforcement more access to the critical information it needs to combat terrorism and financial crimes, by giving a safe harbor for banks that keep customer accounts open at law enforcement’s request.

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 758 would strengthen cooperation between financial institutions and law enforcement agencies to better detect, deter, and combat terrorism and financial crimes.

With respect to Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) supervisory actions, this bill would carve out a narrow safe harbor for financial institutions that keep a customer’s account open at the written request of a law enforcement agency, including those at the Federal, State, Local and Tribal levels.

This cooperation will enable law enforcement agencies to follow the money in the bank accounts of terrorists, human traffickers, corrupt officials, and those involved with organized crime.

Of equal importance, the legislation provides an assurance to financial institutions, clarifying that they will not be held liable for their cooperation and collaboration with law enforcement in helping to thwart illicit finance.

I will note that law enforcement agencies are currently expected to provide a written notice to financial institutions, requesting that the accounts of bad actors remain open to monitor transactions and build stronger criminal cases.

However, this practice does not always happen and exposes financial institutions to enforcement actions from their banking regulator.

Banks should not be put in a position to choose whether or not to help law enforcement out of concern about regulatory consequences.  We simply cannot allow bad actors to launder money and finance terror through our banks.

H.R. 758 will encourage financial institutions to maintain a strong partnership with law enforcement.

In the 115th Congress, this bill was unanimously approved by the Financial Services Committee. The House passed the bill by a vote of 379-4.

I want to thank the Gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hill, and the Gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Foster, for introducing this bipartisan piece of legislation.  This bill is one example of our Committee’s efforts to fight terrorism, corruption, and financial crime.

I urge all Members to vote “Yes” on H.R. 758.

H.R. 758 was introduced by Congressman French Hill (R-AR) and Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL),  Members of the House Financial Services Committee. The bill passed by a vote of 404-7.



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