Bulletin reminds: Final rule on SAR exemptions takes effect May 1

A final rule takes effect May 1 amending the national bank regulator’s suspicious activity report (SAR) regulations, which allow the agency to issue exemptions from the requirements of those regulations if a bank meets the criteria specified in the final rule, according to a reminder in a bulletin issued Thursday.

Adopted March 16, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) final rule brings the agency’s rules more in line with the exemption authority described in rules from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) for filings of suspicious activity reports (SARs).

According to the OCC, the final rule clarifies the OCC’s authority to issue exemptions from the requirements of its regulations based on a request from a national bank or federal savings association, including federal branches and agencies of foreign banks.

The OCC said its final rule contains some requirements that are not included in FinCEN’s SAR regulation, so for an exemption request involving OCC-only SAR requirements, a national bank or federal savings association will be required to seek an exemption only from the OCC; if it also requires an exemption from a FinCEN rule requirement, approval from both agencies will be required.

Among other highlights of the final rule outlined in Thursday’s OCC bulletin are that the rule:

  • Establishes processes for the OCC to facilitate changes related to SAR regulations required by the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.
  • Establishes processes for the OCC to grant relief to banks that develop innovative solutions intended to meet Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requirements more efficiently and effectively.
  • Does not, by itself, result in any exemptions from SAR requirements. The final rule only clarifies the OCC’s legal authority to issue such exemptions in the future.

The agency said that, when issuing any exemptions, it expects to coordinate with FinCEN and the other federal banking agencies. For exemption requests from the OCC’s SAR regulations that would also require an exemption from FinCEN’s SAR regulation, a bank would need to seek an exemption from both the OCC and FinCEN.

OCC Bulletin 2022-13: Suspicious Activity Reports: OCC Authority for Exemptions to Suspicious Activity Report Requirements: Final Rule