DOJ Assistant AG Outlines Integral Parts of Compliance Program During Anti-Money Laundering Conference

U.S. Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell was the keynote speaker at the recent ACAMS Anti-Money Laundering & Financial Crime Conference in Hollywood, Florida. Caldwell, who heads up the DOJ’s Criminal Division and its Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, outlined what the DOJ expects of financial institutions operating internationally.

Caldwell noted that financial institutions need to make cyber security a top priority and put compliance programs in place that help protect themselves against violations of the law.

“Robust compliance programs are essential to preventing fraud and corruption,” said Caldwell. “But they also are an important factor for prosecutors in determining whether to bring charges against a business entity that has engaged in some form of criminal misconduct.”

Caldwell explained that prosecutors look at the existence and effectiveness of a company’s compliance program as well as the remedial measures taken once misconduct has occurred. She outlined the hallmarks of what the DOJ considers to be an effective compliance program as follows:

  • Directors and senior management must provide strong, visible and explicit support for compliance policies.
  • Personnel responsible for compliance should have stature within the company, and the compliance function needs to have adequate funding and access to necessary resources.
  • A company’s compliance policies should be in writing and easily understood by all employees. The policies should be translated into the languages of all countries where the company operates.
  • Compliance policies should be communicated to all employees and repeated training on those policies should be given to employees.
  • Compliance policies should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are kept up to date with evolving risks and circumstances. If a U.S. entity acquires or merges with a foreign-based entity, compliance policies should be reviewed and revised.
  • Enforcement of compliance policy violations needs to be uniform, and there should be incentives in place that encourage compliance throughout the organization.
  • A company should communicate its compliance program to all third party vendors and include language in its contracts that assesses penalties for failure to adhere to the company’s compliance policies and procedures.

Caldwell said that the suggestion that the DOJ is unfairly targeting financial institutions for investigation and prosecution is untrue “Simply put, banks and other financial institutions continue to come up on our radar screens because they, and the individuals through which they act, continue to violate the law, maintain ineffective compliance programs or simply turn a blind eye to criminal conduct to preserve profit.”

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm with a focus on federal fraud defense, Medicare fraud defense, bank fraud defense, and white collar criminal defense. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or