Neb. Advises Insurers, Banks on Terror Responsibilities

April 17, 2002

The Nebraska Department of Insurance recently issued instructions to insurers and banks regarding their responsibilities under the USA Patroit Act of 2001, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Proving Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism,” signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 2001. The law, enacted in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was designed strengthen the nation’s ability to combat terrorism and prevent and detect money-laundering activities.

The purpose of the department’s notice is to advise persons or entities regulated by the Nebraska Department of Insurance of important new responsibilities under the Act. In particular, Section 352 of the Act amends the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) to require that all financial institutions establish an anti-money laundering program, and Section 326 amends the BSA to require the Secretary of the Treasury (Treasury) to adopt minimum standards for financial institutions regarding the identity of customers that open accounts.

Section 352 – Establishing Anti-Money Laundering Programs
Section 352 of the Act requires the establishment of an anti-money laundering program, including at a minimum:

* The development of internal policies, procedures, and controls; these should be appropriate for the level of risk of money laundering identified.
* The designation of a compliance officer; the officer should have appropriate training and background to execute their responsibilities. In addition, the compliance officer should have access to senior management.
* An ongoing employee training program; a training program should match training to the employees’ roles in the organization and their job functions. The training program should be provided as often as necessary to address gaps created by movement of employees within the organization and turnover.
* An independent audit function to test the programs. The independent audit function does not require engaging outside consultants. Internal staff that is Independent of those developing and executing the anti-money laundering program may conduct the audit.

Treasury is currently drafting a regulation describing the anti-money laundering compliance program for insurers. The regulation may borrow from the anti-money laundering compliance program rule recently proposed by the NASD for broker- dealers, and is expected to be promulgated in late spring or early summer.

Insurance companies are included in the BSA’s definition of financial institution, and should be prepared to comply with the new law and the regulations promulgated thereunder. Section 352 of the Act becomes effective on April 24, 2002; all insurance companies are required to be in compliance with the law by that date.

As part of its rulemaking process, Treasury is determining the extent to which other insurance entities will be considered financial institutions for purposes of the regulation. It is anticipated that the regulation could cover all other persons and entities engaged in the business of insurance, including brokers, agents, and managing general agents, and may also include other regulated entities. These insurance entities will be required to comply with the regulation by the regulation’s effective date.

Anti-money laundering programs are not anticipated to be “one size fits all.” Rather, it is expected that they will be developed using a risk-based approach. Development of an anti-money laundering program should begin with identification of those areas, processes and programs that are susceptible to money laundering activities. The practices and procedures implemented under the program should reflect the risks of money laundering given the entity’s products, methods of distribution, contact with customers and forms of customer payment and deposits.

Section 326 – Customer Identification
Section 326 of the Act amends the BSA to require that Treasury issue regulations setting forth minimum standards for financial institutions regarding the identity of their customers in connection with the purpose of a policy or contract of insurance. This program must set forth customer identity verification and documentation procedures, as well as procedures the insurer will employ to notify its customers about this requirement and determine whether the customer appears on government lists of known or suspected terrorists or terrorist organizations.