The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is an important bureau that forms part of the United States Treasury Department. The main purpose of FinCEN is to combat financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorist financing. It works toward this goal by monitoring and analysing financial transactions, as well as by keeping an eye on individuals who are at high risk of getting involved with corruption. The bureau deals with both domestic and international crime, and it investigates all types of illegal transactions. By bringing individuals and sources of information together, combining the work of other agencies and partners, and making connections in the financial industry, FinCEN is able to catch financial criminals and prevent them from successfully carrying out their crimes.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network was created in 1990 and was given regulatory responsibilities four years later. When the USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2002, FinCEN became its own official bureau in the United States Treasury Department. It compiles and releases four reports a year, with the aid of state-of-the-art technology such as a proprietary search engine that searches for suspicious activity and individuals that may be involved in financial crime and a Currency and Banking Retrieval System.
The USA PATRIOT Act also enhanced FinCEN’s authority to gather vital information from financial institutions and companies. FinCEN now has a secure network that facilitates the enforcement of regulations while providing necessary data and monitoring the financial industry both domestically and worldwide. Using its network, the bureau is able to reach out to over 45,000 different connections that are affiliated with over 27,000 different institutions.
FinCEN is constantly expanding its mission and adding new items to the list of what it monitors and regulates. For instance, FinCEN recently decided that “substitutions for currency” will fall under their definition of money service businesses. This decision allowed the bureau to start monitoring virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, which have become increasingly popular and important to world markets (both legal and illicit).
Despite the fact that many people support FinCEN’s work, some believe that FinCEN executes its policies unfairly. Recently, there has been controversy over small farmers’ market stores being targeted by the bureau while prominent Politically Exposed Persons and known money launderers walk free. Similarly, serious debates exist as to whether FinCEN’s accomplishments are worth the public’s privacy being infringed upon.