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FINCEN & secrecy

According to Reveal, ‘America’s cities are being bought up, bit by bit, by anonymous shell companies using piles of cash…All-cash transactions have come to account for a quarter of all residential real estate purchases, “totaling hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide,” the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – the financial crimes unit of the federal Treasury Department, also known as FinCEN noted in a 2017 news release.’

“Thanks to the Bank Secrecy Act, a 1970 anti-money-laundering law, the agency is able to learn who owns many of these properties. In high-cost cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, it’s flagged over 30% of cash purchases as suspicious transactions. But FinCEN also cites this bill to hide this information from the public, leaving the American people increasingly in the dark about who owns their cities.”

‘Countries around the world have addressed this problem head on. In Argentina, Australia, Israel, Jamaica and the Netherlands, any member of the public may request this information. In Russia and Ukraine, it is already online. Public disclosure is coming even to some notorious tax shelters, including the Cayman Islands, officials in the United Kingdom say, in 2021. In the United States, we’re on no such path to disclosure. A bipartisan anti-money-laundering bill (H.R.2513 – Corporate Transparency Act of 2019), which passed the House in October, would require banks to systematically disclose the true owners of shell companies to FinCEN but would keep the public in the dark, stripping out all “personally identifiable information,” including anything “that would allow for the identification of a particular corporation or limited liability company.”‘

“Reveal is going to court. In a complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California by our general counsel, D. Victoria Baranetsky, Reveal argues that the government has “no lawful basis for declining to release the records” under FOIA.”

Complete story: Unmasking the secret landlords buying up America by Aaron Glantz / December 17, 2019.

co-published on govdoc-l and freegovinfo.info.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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