Updated guidance seeks to offer clarity on information sharing under Patriot Act among financial institutions

Updated guidance designed to give financial institutions clarity about the information sharing program outlined in the federal law to detect and deter terrorism was released Thursday by the Treasury’s financial law enforcement arm.

The guidance, issued in the form of a fact sheet from the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), outlines requirements under section 314(b) of the USA Patriot Act of 2001. The legislation was passed in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., that destroyed the World Trade Center and heavily damaged the Pentagon.

Through the 314(b) program, FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco said in a speech Thursday, financial institutions may share information about suspected money laundering or terrorist financing. The guidance also provides that information may be shared even if such activities do not constitute a transaction, Blanco said, including an attempted transaction or an attempt to induce others engage in a transaction. He added that information also may be shared even if financial institutions have not made a conclusive determination that the activity is suspicious.

Blanco made the remarks in a speech to the annual American Bankers Association/American Bar Association Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference.

According to FinCEN, the new guidance also clarifies that there is no limitation under 314(b) on the sharing of personally identifiable information or any restriction on how the information can be shared. For example, information may be shared verbally.

The new fact sheet also provides guidance on which organizations can share information. Blanco said that “an entity that is not itself a financial institution may form and operate an association of financial institutions whose members can use 314(b).” That includes, he said, compliance service providers and an unincorporated association of financial institutions governed by a contract between its financial institution members.

FinCEN Director Emphasizes Importance of Information Sharing Among Financial Institutions