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Cross-border financial transfers, such as remittances, are important sources of money for developing countries. But reasonable national security policies designed to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism make it harder to carry out international transfers. CGD proposed how to make regulations clearer in order to help safeguard legitimate, vital sources of income for people in developing countries. Our recommendations were taken up the US regulatory body FATF.
A growing number of humanitarian aid organizations operating in conflict zones are having trouble finding banks willing to work with them. We attended an international stakeholder dialogue on ensuring financial services for nonprofit organizations, and offer our preliminary thoughts here.
Even while policy solutions to address de-risking are being implemented, new technologies have emerged to address de-risking by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions.
In recent years, regulators have raised their expectations for what counts as adequate AML/CFT compliance. At the same time, they have cracked down on institutions that have fallen short. While arguably necessary, this more stringent enforcement has produced some unintended side effects. In particular, it has put pressure on banks’ ability and willingness to deliver certain types of services, notably correspondent banking services.
The Financial Stability Board's long-awaited report finds that the number of active CBRs has declined by 6 percent since 2011 and has continued through 2016, affecting all regions and major international currencies. The analysis suggests that small economies are among the most affected by CBR withdrawal. The bottom line: the decline of correspondent banking relationships, especially with smaller and poorer countries, remains an important policy issue.
Regulatory pressure on international banks to fight money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF) increased substantially in the past decade. We find countries that have been added to a high-risk greylist face up to a 10% decline in the number of cross border payments received from other jurisdictions, but no change in the number sent. We also find that a greylisted country is more likely to see a decline in payments from other countries with weak AML/CFT institutions. We find limited evidence that these effects manifest in cross border trade or other flows. Given that countries that are placed on these lists tend to be poorer on average, these impacts are likely to be more strongly felt in developing countries.
In November 2015, CGD published a report on the unintended consequences of anti-money laundering policies for poor countries, focusing on three groups: migrant workers who send remittances to their families, vulnerable people who are displaced by conflict or natural disasters and are in need of foreign assistance, and businesses that rely on cross-border trade. Since then, the international community has made several efforts to address the problem of financial exclusion created in part by these policies.
Distributed ledger technology, like Bitcoin’s blockchain, has the potential to transform cross-border payments, boost financial inclusion, and lessen the unintended consequences of anti-money laundering enforcement. Ripple, a fintech company using distributed ledger technology, made headlines recently, as did the appearance of a new cryptocurrency, Zcash. If you’ve gotten swept up in the enthusiasm around emerging financial technologies (fintech), you may think that the creaking system of international transfers in fiat currencies, and the problems of global financial exclusion associated with it, will soon come to an end. However, as we’ve said before, these innovations may not have as much of an impact as you expect.
Last November, a CGD working group of experts convened to address the unintended consequences of anti-money laundering (AML) policies for poor countries, where they recommended that the Financial Stability Board (FSB) should take the lead on addressing problematic de-risking by banks. Below, we outline our takeaways on the FSB’s progress thus far.