Written By JiJi Bahhur, Regulatory Compliance Counsel
Last Friday, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released two sets of frequently asked questions(FAQs): FAQs Regarding SARSs and FAQs Regarding CTRs. The purpose of these questions is to assist financial institutions with the use of FinCEN’s new SAR and CTR forms, which, as of April 1, 2013, are the only acceptable forms for reporting suspicious activity and applicable currency transactions – an item we’ve blogged about on numerous occasions.
The FAQs are very detailed, and if you have any dealings with SARs or CTRs at your credit union, I’d suggest you read through them. As someone who used to be heavily involved in filling out and filing CTRs and SARs, I can say that even I learned a few new things. Here’s a taste of information from the FAQs Regarding SARs:
“1. What are the expectations for completing the Items with an asterisk (“critical”) and without an asterisk (“non-critical”) found on the FinCEN SAR or any other FinCEN report?
As explained in FinCEN’s March 2012 guidance (FIN-2012-G002), for both critical and non-critical elements, financial institutions should complete those Items for which they have relevant information, regardless of whether or not the individual Items are deemed critical for technical filing purposes.
For critical Items, financial institutions must either provide the requested information or affirmatively check the “Unknown” (Unk.) box that is provided on the FinCEN SAR and FinCEN Currency Transaction Report (CTR) (or any other FinCEN Report).
For non-critical Items, FinCEN expects financial institutions will provide the most complete filing information available within each report consistent with existing regulatory expectations. Based upon feedback from law enforcement officials, such information is important for query purposes. However, the new FinCEN SAR and FinCEN CTR do not create any new obligations to collect data, either manually or through an enterprise-wide IT management system, where such collection is not already required by current statutes and regulations, especially when such collection would be in conflict with the financial institution’s obligations under any other applicable law. Therefore, a financial institution may leave non-critical fields without an asterisk blank when information is not readily available.
2. How do I meet my underlying obligation to submit a complete and accurate report if my filing software does not allow me to include known information for a field without an asterisk?
FinCEN expects financial institutions to have the capability to submit information for any of the data fields in the FinCEN SAR or CTR (or any other FinCEN report). In general, if your financial institution’s filing software does not permit the institution to include information in a field without an asterisk where information has been collected and is pertinent to the report, the financial institution should instead complete a discrete filing for those transactions until the software is updated. If a filing has been submitted in which such information was not included because of such a limitation in the filing software, an amended filing should be completed using either the discrete filing method or an amended batch filing, once the software is updated. Such software updates should be implemented within a reasonable period of time.
If your institution has questions regarding the applicability of this general guidance, please contact the FinCEN Regulatory Helpline at (800) 949-2732 for further information.”