Working together to stop money laundering: A conversation with Marcus Pleyer
03 Nov 2020

The International Compliance Association’s BIG Compliance Festival concluded on a high note last week as financial crime expert and Compliance Week columnist Martin Woods sat down with Dr. Marcus Pleyer, president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), for an exclusive interview.

In a wide-ranging and forward-looking discussion, Pleyer emphasized his commitment to stopping money laundering, telling delegates he is “deeply convinced” doing so will save lives. Pleyer underlined the importance of public/private sector cooperation, information sharing, technological development, and anti-money laundering (AML) training in achieving this vision.

“The AML system puts responsibility not only on law enforcement and supervisors but also on obliged entities,” he said, “because you are the first line of defense. This is why it is important that we all work together to stop money laundering.”

Pleyer further highlighted the FATF’s desire to engage with compliance practitioners, saying, “We need to understand how you work in practice. We cannot make reasonable standards without engaging with you.”

The FATF is a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. Pleyer was named president of the organization in July.

Data sharing and cooperation

Data sharing represents a significant component of Pleyer’s vision of a more cooperative and collaborative future. “We could make a really big jump in becoming better [at fighting money laundering] if we could pool data together,” he suggested. “But we need to look at ways to reconcile our wish to become better in our AML work while also preserving the right to privacy and data protection.”

Pleyer added his vision of information exchange includes cooperation not only between regulated entities but between the public and private sector, involving engagement between regulated entities, financial intelligence units (FIUs), law enforcement, and supervisors. This is particularly important in the context of COVID-19.

He pointed to countries such as the United Kingdom, which he said has developed “efficient information sharing mechanisms,” but added that the question of whether data sharing is restricted to the exchange of strategic information or whether it also includes an exchange of operational data remains a significant consideration.

Technology and effective AML

Pleyer suggested the key to balancing data sharing against privacy requirements, as well as meeting many other current AML challenges, lies in the development and deployment of new technology.

Technology, he suggested, plays a fundamental role in the evolution of AML from a reporting and intelligence gathering exercise toward a more proactive endeavor aimed at stopping money laundering. “Years ago, we all worked with a tick-box approach,” he reminded delegates. “Eight years ago, we introduced the risk-based approach. The next step is to use more digital tools to become more effective in our mission to save lives, as that is what AML is all about.”

Read more at Compliance Week

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