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USA PATRIOT Act Monitor News Release: Joint Agency Notice
FinCEN has announced a moritorium on new information requests under section 314 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The moritorium also applies to compliance with existing requests. The Joint Agency Notice, issued November 26, 2002 (attached to this email and posted on the releasing agency websites), indicates that the moratorium resulted from logistical issues raised by financial institutions and their trade associations regarding the information request process. The cover letter to the Federal Reserve release indicates that there were problems in the mass distribution of information requests but does not elaborate on what those problems were.
The information request process is described in final rule 31 CFR 103.100, "Information sharing between Federal law enforcement agencies and financial institutions." (67 Fed. Reg. 60585, September 26, 2002; discussed in the November 2002 issue of the USA PATRIOT Act Monitor, at 15)
The Joint Agency Notice states that FinCEN has sent "several" requests based on the authority of section 314(a) and 31 CFR 103.100 and received "useful information" in response to these requests. The moratorium, according to the Notice, is expected to be brief, but it is not clear that there will be any changes to 31 CFR 103.100. In the event of "an immediate threat to national security or other emergency," the information request process may be reinstated.
FinCEN has advised the federal financial supervisory agencies that the FBI will discontinue the use of the "Control List" (distributed to institutions by their federal regulators) and instead rely on the information request process to communicate with financial institutions. Because of this change, the Notice states that "if your financial institution has not received any requests from FinCEN via e-mail or facsimile since November 4, 2002 (when FinCEN distributed its first section 314(a) information request), you should contact your primary federal supervisory agency to be added to FinCEN’s contact list." (Receipt of an information request under 31 CFR 103.100 was not to be taken as indicating that a party concerning whom information is being sought is on a government list. 67 Fed. Reg. 60581))
For FinCEN's posting of the Notice, go to www.fincen.gov/314amoratorium.pdf. Other agencies participating in the issuance were the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the OCC, the OTS, and NCUA.
OCC Alert 2002-14 advises national banks and federal branchest that have not received an electronic information request from FinCEN to contact the OCC via firstname.lastname@example.org. Alert 2002-14 notes that although the Control List process is being discontinued, "the OCC will continue to use and maintain its list of emergency contacts at national banks and federal branches. This OCC emergency contacts list will be used to disseminate information concerning potential terrorist threats and other emergency information, but it will not be used as a means of obtaining information for law enforcement agencies." (See OCC Alert 2002-11, October 3, 2002.)
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