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United States Senate to vote on Anti Money Laundering Act

By Elizabeth Hearst

The United States Senate will this week vote on the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 as an amendment to the National Defense Appropriations Act. 

If this bill is passed, it will eliminate anonymous “shell companies” in the United States. These shell companies allow individuals to disguise the identities of the real beneficiary owners of a company, and their source of funds. 

Once they are disguised, these shell companies are permitted to open bank accounts and conduct business under a false name and accounts.

Previous research suggests that the United States is one of the easiest places in the world to create a shell company. In an experiment conducted by Findley, Nielsen and Shaeman, they approached incorporation providers globally and asked to create a company. They assigned treatments to these providers to alert them that these companies would be used for laundering money as a result of drugs, corruption and terrorism. They found that only 25% of United States providers were compliant. 

Surprisingly, this proposed bill will see a diverse advocacy coalition which includes law enforcement groups, religious leaders and the Trump administration. The most recent bill on money laundering was passed in 2001, when Congress passed Title III of the USA Patriots Act which eliminated shell banks and set up a modern anti-terrorist financing system. 

This bill was first introduced in its infancy by Senator Carl Levin as the Incorporation Transparency Act in 2008, in an effort to crack down on shell companies. After twelve years of lobbying and an eclectic group of advocates, this bill is now ready for Senate approval. 

Adapted from: Medium article by E.J. Fagan, published on June 28th 2020

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