The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the Treasury Department recently issued long-awaited rules requiring life insurance companies to come into compliance with the anti-money laundering (AML) requirements of the USA Patriot Act.
Title III of the Patriot Act–which was enacted in the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001–includes numerous provisions designed to enhance the U.S. AML regime. Since the Patriot Act’s enactment, FinCEN has subjected banks, broker-dealers and other financial institutions to numerous new AML requirements. With its new rules, FinCEN now has brought insurance companies into the Patriot Act’s framework.
The new rules require covered insurance companies to:
o establish AML programs similar to those required at banks and securities broker-dealers (the “AML Program Rule”); and
o file suspicious activity reports (SARs) with the federal government (the “SAR Rule”).
Companies covered by the rules will be required to come into compliance no later than May 2, 2006; FinCEN (or its designee) will examine insurance company compliance with these rules.
Which insurance companies are covered by the rules?
The new rules apply only to those insurance companies engaged within the United States in the business of issuing or underwriting “Covered Products,” which are those insurance products FinCEN believes have features, such as cash surrender values, that pose money laundering and terrorist financing risks. Covered products include:
o permanent life insurance policies, other than group life insurance policies;
o annuity contracts, other than group annuity contracts; and
o other insurance products with features of cash value or investment.
Covered products do not include reinsurance, group life insurance or group annuities. Term life (including credit life), property and casualty, health, and other kinds of insurance that do not have cash value or investment features also are not covered products.
Importantly, insurance companies that offer covered products as an incidental part of their non-insurance business (e.g., tax-exempt organizations offering charitable gift annuities) are not subject to the rules. Additionally, the rules are not directly applicable to insurance agents or brokers. Nevertheless, insurers covered by the rules must take responsibility for their agents and brokers’ actions and secure compliance by those brokers and agents (which means that, when necessary, they may need to terminate business relationships with brokers and agents who do not cooperate with insurance company AML efforts).
What does the AML Program Rule require?
Under the AML Program Rule, insurance companies must develop and implement AML programs reasonably designed to prevent the companies from being used to facilitate money laundering or financing terrorist activities. The AML program must be in writing, approved by senior management and, at a minimum, must:
o incorporate polices, procedures and internal controls based on an internal risk assessment;
o designate a competent compliance officer responsible for administrating the AML program;
o provide ongoing training for appropriate employees, agents, brokers and others; and