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Archive for April 13th, 2021

Back in 2010, I narrated this video on money laundering for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, mostly to help people understand that governments are imposing huge costs on both industry and consumers without any offsetting benefits (such as reductions in crime).

As you can tell from the video, I’m not a big fan of anti-money laundering (AML) laws and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations.

And in the 11-plus years since the video was released, I’ve shared lots of additional data about the costly futility of the government anti-money laundering laws and regulations.

That’s the bad news.

The good news (sort of) is that more people are noticing that the current approach is an expensive failure. Even some folks from the establishment media are waking up to the problem, as illustrated by an article in the latest edition of the Economist.

…banks remain the Achilles heel in the global war on money-laundering, despite the reams of regulations aimed at turning them into front­line soldiers in that conflict. However, closer examination suggests that the global anti-money-laundering (AML) system has serious structural flaws, largely because governments have outsourced to the private sector much of the policing they should have been doing themselves. …Money-laundering was not even a crime across much of the world until the 1980s. Since then countries from Afghanistan to Zambia have been arm-twisted, particularly by America, into passing laws. …This has turned AML compliance into a huge part of what banks do and created large new bureaucracies. It is not unusual for firms such as HSBC or JPMorgan Chase to have…more than 20,000 overall in risk and compliance.

Here’s some of the evidence cited in the article.

A study published last year…concluded that the global AML system could be “the world’s least effective policy experiment”, and that compliance costs for banks and other businesses could be more than 100 times higher than the amount of laundered loot seized. A report based on a survey of professionals, published last year by LexisNexis, an analytics firm, found that worldwide spending on AML and sanctions compliance by financial institutions (including fund managers, insurers and others, as well as banks) exceeds $180bn a year. …the numbers tell of a war being lost. …Statistics on how much is intercepted by authorities are patchy. A decade-old estimate by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime put it at just 0.2% of the total. In 2016 Europol estimated the confiscation rate in Europe to be a higher but still paltry 1.1%.

Sounds like a damning indictment right?

But I wrote that the article was only “sort of” good news. That’s because the writers at the Economist fail to reach the logical conclusion.

Instead of junking the current system, they want to double down on failure.

…governments need to work harder collectively to make the AML system fit for purpose.

This is akin to looking at welfare programs, realizing that they create dependency and weaken families, but then supporting even more redistribution.

Sadly, I suspect the new evidence cited in the article won’t lead to more sensible thinking in Washington, either.

  • Democrats don’t care if the current approach is failing since they see anti-money laundering laws as a way of destroying financial privacy, which they think is necessary to collect more tax revenue.
  • Republicans don’t care if the current approach is failing because they mindlessly support a tough-on-crime approach, regardless of whether it actually produces positive results.

Indeed, politicians in DC recently expanded AML laws.

I guess the moral of the story is that politicians can always take a bad situation and make it worse.

P.S. I’m batting .500 in my career as a global money launderer.

P.P.S. Here’s Barack Obama’s satirical encounter with AML laws and KYC rules.

P.P.P.S. Speaking of Obama and money laundering, I fear Biden will resuscitate his reprehensible “Operation Chokepoint.”

P.P.P.P.S. I also fear Biden will continue support for asset forfeiture, another disgusting policy that is a part of money-laundering policy.

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