Anti-Money Laundering Debuts for Nonbank Mortgage Companies

by Jonathan Foxx
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A new era in filing requirements is about to begin. For the first time, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as “FinCEN,” will require nonbank mortgage lenders and originators to implement an Anti-Money Laundering program (“AML Program”) and file Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”) for certain loan transactions.

FinCEN is establishing this AML program in accordance with the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”).

The guidelines relating to the AML requirement become effective on April 16, 2012, and the AML Program’s effective compliance date is August 13, 2012. The AML program and SAR filing regulations, which I will refer to as “FinCEN’s rule,” are considered to be “the first step in an incremental approach to implementation of regulations for the broad loan or finance company category of financial institutions.”

The Bank Secrecy Act defines the term "financial institution" to include, in part, a loan or finance company. This terminology, however, can reasonably be construed to extend to any business entity that makes loans to or finances purchases on behalf of consumers and businesses.

Thus, nonbank residential mortgage lenders and originators, and mortgage brokers, are grouped into the "loan or finance company" category. However, the term ‘‘loan or finance company’’ is actually not concisely defined in any FinCEN regulation, and there is no legislative history on the term itself. Nevertheless, FinCEN is applying this term to extend to any business entity that makes loans to or finances purchases on behalf of consumers and businesses.

Therefore, residential mortgage lenders and originators (“RMLOs”) are covered by the scope of the ‘‘loan or finance company’’ term. I will use the acronym “RMLO” in this article, inasmuch as my principal focus herein relates to residential mortgage lenders and originators.

Residential mortgage lenders and originators, the RMLOs, are considered to be the primary providers of mortgage finance, and have a unique position with respect to direct contact with the consumer. Thus, they are presumably able to assess and identify money laundering risks and fraud. At this time, FinCEN is not proposing a definition of “loan or finance company’’ that would encompass other types of consumer or commercial finance companies, or real estate agents and other entities involved in real estate closings and settlements.

In this article, I am going to unpack the AML Program for you in a way that will give you some familiarity with its scope, while perhaps also making its implementation a bit less daunting than it might otherwise seem to be. Nevertheless, many RMLOs will find that setting up the AML Program will be a challenging endeavor.

Information, issuances, and relevant documentation are available in the FinCEN section of my firm’s website Library at www.LendersComplianceGroup.com.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Jonathan Foxx, Lenders Compliance Group | Attorney Advertising

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