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Anti-laundering bill targeting shell companies stalled in Senate as big banks caught cooking books

The Anti-Money Laundering Act would expose the owners of shell companies now sits alone on a shelf in the US Senate while the Federal Reserve shrugs its shoulders in the face of blatant manipulation by the too-big-to-fail banks.

by Raul Diego

Part 1

Money laundering and cooking the books are usually treated as separate things when discussing white collar crime, even though the latter is often the mechanism through which the former is carried out. In the world of corporate banking, hedge funds and the host of satellite market services that underpin the financialized economies of the U.S. and U.K., tax haven jurisdictions allow money flowing in from all sorts of highly profitable illicit activities, shell companies and brass plate trusts to become an asset on the books of massive institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC; all of which have been embroiled in massive money laundering scandals.

Real account holders’ names escape regulatory scrutiny thanks to the anonymity the current rules of the game allow them to enjoy. But, that might soon come to an end if a bill passed by the House of Representatives makes it past the Senate. 

The Anti-Money Laundering Act was tucked inside the House’s version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and mandates the creation of a “beneficial ownership” record which would force the public disclosure of any U.S.-based company’s ownership.

The thought of the real names behind the plethora of shell companies and other shady instruments of finance being exposed must have sent a shiver down the back of more than one Senator, because the bill has been excised from the Pentagon’s annual budget authorization by the upper chamber, placing the proposed legislation in a state of limbo for the time being.

A beneficial ownership record would seriously curtail tax haven entities from operating in complete darkness, as they do now. The U.K. created its register in 2016 and Europe has been directed by Brussels to have one up and running by 2020. The legislation, which has earlier iterations known as the Illicit Cash Act and Corporate Transparency Act, was passed by a large majority in the lower house and reportedly has widespread support in the Senate, as well.

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