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AMLA Improvements Are a Victory for Whistleblowers

December 29, 2022

Money laundering is the process of making illegally-gained proceeds or “dirty money” appear legal or “clean.”  Most large scale money laundering involves use of the legitimate banking system.  Regulators and law enforcement officials need the assistance of insiders to identify and unravel sophisticated money laundering networks.

Recognizing the importance of those insiders, Congress passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2020.  Among other provisions, the AMLA created a program to pay awards to whistleblowers who reported money laundering activities to the federal government.  The AMLA was a significant improvement over previous laws.  But the AMLA had loopholes which made it uncertain how and how much whistleblowers would be paid.

In response, Congress began working on improvements to the program.  This bipartisan legislation beefs up the existing Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Program. The amendments are good for whistleblowers because they set a minimum award amount, provide a funding vehicle for payment of awards, and would be available to whistleblowers who report sanctions violations.  Congress recently passed these AMLA improvements as part of the end-or-the-year spending bill completed on December 23rd. On December 29th, President Biden signed the AMLA into law.

The AML Whistleblower Program

The AMLA strengthened existing whistleblower protections and updated incentives for individuals who exposed violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. The AMLA provides:

  • Whistleblower rewards of up to 30% of the amount recovered by the U.S. Treasury exceeding $1 million;
  • Confidentiality for the whistleblower; and
  • Protection from retaliatory actions against the whistleblower.

AMLA Improvements Set A Minimum Award Amount

The first significant update to the AMLA is the establishment of a statutory minimum award. Whistleblowers are now entitled to an amount of at least 10% of the sanctions collected as a result of the whistleblower’s tip. Previously, AMLA whistleblower award amounts were fully discretionary. With no guarantee of a meaningful reward amount, individuals may have been unwilling to take the risk of blowing the whistle. A guaranteed minimum award should embolden more whistleblowers to come forward.

AMLA Improvements Create A Funding Mechanism For Whistleblower Award Payments

Previously, the AMLA relied on Congressional appropriations to fund awards to whistleblowers.  The amended legislation, however, establishes a fund financed through sanctions paid by AML violators, as the source of award payments.

Whistleblowers Are Now Covered For Reporting Sanctions Violators

The newly approved amendments expand the reach of the AML Whistleblower Program. The new legislation affords protections to and awards for those who blow the whistle on sanctions violators.

I’m optimistic that our new program encouraging individuals to come forward for suspected sanctions violations will be successful as well. Given the expansive sanctions we’ve implemented on Russia as they wage an unjust war in Ukraine, our legislation is urgently needed to hold bad actors accountable.

Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley in support of AML Improvement Act.

We Help Whistleblowers File Successful Claims

Whistleblower Law Collaborative LLC, based in Boston, devotes its practice entirely to representing clients nationwide in bringing actions under the federal and state whistleblower laws and programs, including the AML Whistleblower Program. If you are aware of AML violations or other types of fraud, contact us for a free, confidential consultation.

 

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