NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Know Your Customer" Rules Are Controversial

March 1, 1999

Since officials at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation proposed new rules that would require banks to track the activities of customers, the agency's Web site has gotten nearly 70,000 comments -- almost none of them positive.

The rules are designed to help law enforcement officials detect laundering of drug money. As currently written, they would require banks to identify their customers and the sources of their money, profile each customer and determine what financial activities would be normal for each one, monitor each customer's transactions, and report on suspicious account activity.

Reports on customers would be filed with the Suspicious Activity Reporting System -- a database in Detroit that is maintained by the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department. More than a dozen different government agencies have access to it.

The objections are wide-ranging:

  • Some 24 percent of complaints from financial institutions and trade groups concerned the costs imposed by the rules and the adverse impact on business -- while about 22 percent of the affected businesses voiced privacy worries.
  • The details of the regulations drew objections from 23 percent of businesses.
  • An substantial 53 percent of individuals voiced privacy concerns.
  • Some 18 percent of individuals objected to giving the government access to customers' financial information, while 5 percent maintained the rules wouldn't help fight crime.

The public has until March 8, 1999, to comment and agency officials concede the firestorm of criticism means the rules will probably have to be rewritten.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Will Your Banker Be a Snoop?" Investor's Business Daily, March 1, 1999.


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