Money laundering: Washington tightens its sanctioning powers against foreign banks

On January 1, Congress gave power to the United States Department of Justice to force foreign banks to provide data on any bank account in the world, as part of an anti-money laundering investigation, but also against corruption. and violation of embargoes.

Foreign banks may be denied access to the U.S. market if they fail to provide account data as part of a DOJ investigation.

The American gendarme is opening a new front with international banks. On January 1, the American Congress adopted the “anti money laundering act of 2020”, strengthening its sanctions capacities in the fight against money laundering, corruption and violations of American embargoes. Banking establishments could be held responsible for obstructing the disclosure of crimes in the United States as elsewhere, even passively. This is a further strengthening of the extraterritoriality of American laws.

“The Treasury and the Department of Justice (DOJ) see their power to enter bank data extended to foreign banking institutions, to all accounts, even those located abroad, and without even these being able to oppose a local confidentiality or banking secrecy law ”, explains Aymeric Dumoulin, lawyer at the New York Bar at Debevoise & Plimpton. This power of assignment applies to any foreign bank in relation to an American correspondent establishment, the world’s largest financial market, i.e. all the major international banks on the planet.