Roundtable and Broad Coalition Support Legislation to Delay CTA Reporting Requirements

The Roundtable and a broad coalition representing millions of businesses throughout the country wrote to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), above, this week in strong support of his legislation—the Protecting Small Business Information Act of 2023 (H.R. 4035). McHenry’s bill would delay the date when the Corporate Transparency Act’s (CTA) beneficial ownership reporting requirements go into effect, currently scheduled for Jan. 1, 2024. (Coalition letter, Sept 12 and McHenry news release, June 12)

CRE Impact

  • There is significant concern about the CTA’s far-reaching scope and its impact on many commercial residential real estate businesses that use the LLC structure for conducting business. The coalition’s letter states that Chairman McHenry’s bill “legislation offers a commonsense solution to this pending regulatory trainwreck.”
  • The CTA amended the Bank Secrecy Act to require corporations, limited liability companies, and similar entities to report certain information about “beneficial owners” who own at least 25% of an entity or indirectly exercise “substantial control” over it.
  • The CTA authorizes the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to collect and disclose beneficial ownership information to authorized government authorities and financial institutions, subject to effective safeguards and controls. The statute requires the submission of regular reports to the federal government that include a litany of sensitive personal identifiers of the owners, senior employees, and/or advisors of covered entities.

CTA Rule Burdens

FinCEN logo
  • The coalition notes that the rule will cover over 32 million existing entities and an additional 5 million newly-created entities every year. These companies and other legal entities could be subjected to increased paperwork, privacy risks, and potentially devastating fines and prison terms.
  • The CTA also applies only to businesses with under $5 million in annual revenues and fewer than 20 employees, thus ensuring that the very companies who can least afford the costs associated with compliance are the ones targeted.
  • Additionally, the coalition emphasizes that despite a looming effective date of January 1, 2023, FinCEN regulators have not finalized the “Access Rule,” which specifies who can access the database and for what purposes, nor an updated “Customer Due Diligence Rule” that applies to financial institutions. Regulators have not laid out a clear plan for engaging millions of affected businesses to convey upcoming responsibilities.
  • In April, bipartisan groups of House and Senate policymakers urged FinCEN to amend the proposed beneficial ownership reporting and access rules, contending certain provisions do not follow congressional intent. (Reuters, April 5)
  • Rep. McHenry, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and a bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional lawmakers requested that FinCEN amend the proposed beneficial ownership rule to adhere to congressional intent and ensure reporting companies cannot avoid transparency. (Congressional letter, April 3)

The Roundtable is also part of a broad coalition of business trade groups that supports a National Small Business Association legal challenge (NSBA v. Janet Yellen) on the constitutionality of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), which became law in Jan. 2021. (Coalition statement of support, Dec. 7, 2022 and NSBA’s website on the CTA)

Policymakers Urge Treasury to Amend Proposed Beneficial Ownership Rule

Capitol building

Bipartisan groups of House and Senate policymakers recently sent letters urging Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to amend proposed beneficial ownership reporting and access rules, contending certain provisions do not follow congressional intent. (BGov, April 4 and Reuters, April 5)

House “Escape Hatch” Modification

  • Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and a bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional  lawmakers sent a letter on April 3 to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das about the Treasury Department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on beneficial ownership information reporting requirements. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7, 2021)

  • The lawmakers requested that FinCEN amend the proposed rule to adhere to congressional intent and ensure reporting companies cannot avoid transparency.

  • The bipartisan letter states that the NPRM has an “escape hatch” that must be modified. Specifically, the policymakers requested that language allowing reporting parties to enter “Unable to identify…unable to obtain” or “Unknown…not able to obtain” be struck from the proposed rule.

  • “Allowing these options in any final rule will degrade the benefits of the registry to law enforcement and to financial institutions and provide an opportunity for bad actors to obscure the identity of the company applicant or beneficial owner,” according to the letter.

Senate Requests

  • A group of six bipartisan Senators also submitted a letter to FinCEN’s Das on March 15 requesting revisions to the beneficial ownership rule. The policymakers requested that the rule (1) track closer to the text of the congressional statute; (2) enhance the utility of a beneficial ownership information (BOI) directory for financial institutions; and (3) remove excessive barriers to accessing the directory by authorized recipients.

  • The Senators’ letter states, “Once the database is live, financial institutions across the country will immediately begin requesting access to BOI for the 32 million reporting companies in the country. It is essential that FinCEN establish an automated process (ideally one that integrates with existing compliance systems at financial institutions) for fielding and responding to these requests.” (Reuters, April 5)

Proposed FinCEN Rules

FINCEN website
  • The CTA amended the Bank Secrecy Act to require corporations, limited liability companies, and similar entities to report certain information about their beneficial owners (the individual natural persons who ultimately own or control the companies).

  • The Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations also submitted detailed comments to FinCEN on May 5, 2021 addressing several implementation concerns related to the beneficial ownership registry. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7, 2021)

  • The coalition document addressed several specific implementation issues, including how small companies targeted by the CTA will face compliance burdens—and the time-consuming and challenging process of gathering required information on all beneficial owners of a reporting company that may have been created years ago.

FinCEN’s BOI directory is scheduled to be operational on January 1, 2024. All guidance material will be made available on FinCEN’s beneficial ownership webpage.

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Treasury Issues Alert on Potential Russian Attempts to Evade Sanctions Through U.S. CRE Investments

FinCEN Alert

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) warned financial institutions this week about how Russian elites and their proxies may attempt to evade sanctions by exploiting vulnerabilities in the U.S. commercial real estate market. (FinCEN Alert | Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal, Jan. 25) 

Russian Exploitation 

  • Treasury has imposed wide-ranging sanctions on certain Russian elites, their proxies, and others who have provided support for Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. (Treasury’s Sanctions List Updates)
     
  • FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das said, “Today we are identifying red flags and typologies in commercial real estate transactions that financial institutions can use to remain vigilant in monitoring, detecting, and reporting suspicious activity that may be indicative of sanctions evasion by sanctioned Russia elites, oligarchs and their proxies.” (Treasury news release, Jan. 25)
     
  • FinCEN’s 11-page alert warns that sanctioned Russian elites and their proxies may pose as CRE investors seeking to evade sanctions by using shell companies, trusts, and pooled investment vehicles, including offshore funds, in order to avoid customer due diligence obligations and beneficial ownership protocols established by financial institutions.

  • The alert also reminds financial institutions involved in loan syndication—including banks, life insurers, and other types of companies regulated by the Bank Secrecy Act—that Section 314(b) of the USA PATRIOT Act provides a safe harbor that offers protections from liability for financial institutions who share information with one another on suspected money laundering or terrorist activities.
     
  • Questions or comments regarding the alert should be sent to the FinCEN Regulatory Support Section at frc@fincen.gov

The Treasury Department issued a final rule last Sept. that will require millions of companies to report information about their “beneficial owners”—persons who own at least 25% of a company or exert significant authority over it—to FinCEN. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 30, 2022 | Final Treasury Rule | Fact Sheet | Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Law, Sept. 29) 

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Treasury Issues Proposed Beneficial Ownership Regulations on Info Retention and Disclosure

Treasury Building bright blue sky

The Treasury Department issued a set of proposed rules this month that address how government officials could access information about the “beneficial owners” of most corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities created in or registered to do business in the United States. (Fact Sheet, Dec. 15 and Federal Register, Dec. 16)

Proposed FinCEN Rules

  • The Dec. 15 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) follows a final beneficial ownership rule issued on Sept. 30. The previous rule requires millions of companies to report information about their beneficial owners—persons who own at least 25% of a company or exert significant authority over it—to FinCEN. (Final Rule | Fact Sheet | Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 30)
  • The Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations submitted detailed comments to FinCEN on May 5, 2021 addressing several implementation concerns related to the beneficial ownership registry. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7)
  • FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das said, “The beneficial ownership information reporting rule finalized earlier this year is a major step forward in unmasking shell companies and protecting the U.S. financial system from abuse by money launderers, drug traffickers, sanctioned oligarchs, and other criminals.”
  • “In this next step, the proposed rule would provide the highest standards of security and confidentiality while ensuring that the new beneficial ownership database is highly useful to law enforcement agencies in its efforts to combat financial crime.” Das added, “As we drive toward full implementation of the Corporate Transparency Act, we move closer to exposing criminals, corrupt actors, and anyone trying to hide ill-gotten gains in the United States.” (Treasury news release and FinCEN Fact Sheet, Dec. 15)

House Republican Opposition

Rep. Patrick McHenry
  • The Chairman-elect of the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry (R-NC), above, raised concerns about the proposed regulations, stating that protecting Americans’ financial privacy will be a top priority of Committee Republicans’ oversight and legislative initiatives next Congress. (McHenry news release, Dec. 15)
  • “Today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by FinCEN does not prioritize Americans’ financial privacy in the way Congress intended,” McHenry said. “FinCEN must include the appropriate protections to prevent unauthorized access and use of the sensitive information collected under this new regime. Until we see a real effort to protect this confidential information, Republicans remain concerned about FinCEN’s commitment to privacy and civil liberties.”

Corporate Transparency Act

  • This month’s proposed set of rules addresses provisions of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), which became law in Jan. 2021, and target tax fraud, terrorism financing, and money laundering. (Tax Notes, Dec. 16)
  • The Roundtable is part of a broad coalition of business trade groups that supports a legal challenge by the National Small Business Association (NSBA v. Janet Yellen), which challenges the constitutionality of the CTA. (Coalition statement of support, Dec. 7 and NSBA’s website on the CTA)
  • The coalition stated, “It is clear whatever marginal benefit the CTA affords law enforcement will be far outweighed by the costs borne by small businesses and their owners.”
  • The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) will continue to work with industry partners to address the implications of FinCEN’s proposed rules and the impact it could have on capital formation and the commercial real estate industry. Written comments on the NPRM are due by Feb. 14, 2023.

RECPAC will meet on Jan. 24, 2023 in conjunction with The Roundtable’s State of the Industry Meeting in Washington.

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Treasury Issues Final Rule Requiring Disclosure of “Beneficial Owners”

FinCEN logo

The Treasury Department issued a final rule yesterday that will require millions of companies to report information about their “beneficial owners”—persons who own at least 25% of a company or exert significant authority over it—to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). (Final Rule | Fact Sheet | Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Law, Sept. 29) 

Who Reports? 

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “This rule … will help strengthen our national security by making it more difficult for oligarchs, terrorists, and other global threats to use complex legal structures to launder money, traffic humans and drugs, and commit other crimes that threaten harm to the American people.” (Treasury statement, Sept. 29)
  • The rule will require most corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities created in or registered to do business in the United States to disclose beneficial ownership information.
  • FinCEN notes that the definition of reporting company applies only to legal entities that have 20 or fewer employees and less than $5 million in gross receipts or sales as reflected in the previous year’s federal tax returns. These entities also must not otherwise benefit from the exemptions described in the regulations.
  • Reporting companies created or registered before Jan. 1, 2024, will have one year (until Jan. 1, 2025) to file their initial reports. Those entities created or registered after Jan. 1, 2024, will have 30 days to file their initial reports.

Data Required

FINCEN website
  • The required data about individuals who own, control or create firms will include the name, birthdate, address, and a unique identification number from driver’s licenses or passports—as well as images of the documents. (AP, Sept. 29)
  • Treasury states the database will be available only to law enforcement and government agencies under the CTA’s beneficial ownership information reporting provisions. (Treasury Department, “Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting”) 

Roundtable Concerns 

RECPAC meeting Annual 2022
  • The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments with other industry organizations earlier this year about CTA’s anti-money laundering regulations affecting real estate transactions. (Industry comment letter and Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 25 | (Coalition letter to FINCEN, Feb. 4)
  • The Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations submitted detailed comments to FinCEN on May 5, 2021 addressing several implementation concerns related to the beneficial ownership registry. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7)
  • Separately, a broad business coalition that includes The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments yesterday to congressional leaders in opposition to the Establishing New Authorities for Business Laundering and Enabling Risks to Security (ENABLERS) Act.
     
  • The ENABLERS Act would dramatically expand CTA reporting requirements and subject the owners, board members, and senior executives of most businesses and charities to audits. (Coalition letter, Sept. 29) 

The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) will continue to work with industry partners to address the implications of FinCEN’s 330-page rule and the impact it could have on capital formation and the commercial real estate industry. RECPAC meets on Nov. 2 in New York City. 

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House and Senate to Consider Legislation Targeting Beneficial Ownership of Real Estate Assets

House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA)

Legislation to strengthen anti-money laundering laws affecting real estate will be introduced soon by House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA), above, following a bipartisan bill targeting U.S. assets of Russian oligarchs that was introduced last week in the Senate. (Politico, April 11 and Senate news release, April 8) 

Beneficial Ownership 

  • In the Senate, the bipartisan “Kleptocrat Liability for Excessive Property Transactions and Ownership (KLEPTO) Act” was introduced by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Roger Wicker (R-MS). The bill (S.4075) includes:
    • Requirements for the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to mandate disclosure of beneficial ownership information (the identity of the real person behind an entity) for all real estate transactions through legal entities;

    • Requirements for FinCEN to extend anti-money laundering safeguards to the real estate sector;

    • Clarification that any foreign entity that buys or holds real estate in the U.S. should be considered a “reporting company” under the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). 

FinCEN Efforts 

FinCEN logo

  • The congressional push to address anti-money-laundering measures in real estate follows FinCEN’s work on anti-money laundering regulations that were proposed long before Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • FinCEN solicited comments on a wide range of questions related to its implementation of the CTA – enacted on January 1, 2021 – that effectively bans the registration of anonymously owned shell companies in the United States. (JD Supra, April 26 and Lexology, April 28) 
  • Ten national real estate industry organizations, including The Roundtable, on Feb. 21 submitted detailed comments to FinCEN on proposed anti-money laundering regulations affecting real estate transactions. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 25)  

Industry Concerns  

  • The Feb. 21 industry letter supports the broad goal of preventing the use of LLCs or any form of real estate to finance illicit acts, money laundering, or terrorism – yet emphasizes that FinCEN should proceed cautiously to not harm legitimate real estate capital flows in the process.

  • The coalition also stated that anti-money laundering rules and requirements should focus on mitigating criminal activity while not burdening legitimate actors with unnecessary or duplicative compliance, which will only increase costs without meaningfully combating money laundering.
  1. Study the commercial and multifamily real estate markets to tailor future regulation to how those markets function;
  2. Leverage the CTA and the beneficial ownership database to reduce the necessary scope of further action; and
  3. Distinguish nonbank commercial real estate lenders from true all-cash transactions.

The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) will continue to work with industry partners to respond to FinCEN’s proposals. The industry will also continue to support a balanced approach that inhibits illicit money laundering activity while not restricting capital formation or increasing the regulatory burden on real estate. 

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Roundtable, Real Estate Coalition Comment on Proposed Anti-Money Laundering Regulations

FinCEN logo

Ten national real estate industry organizations, including The Roundtable, on Feb. 21 submitted detailed comments to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on proposed anti-money laundering regulations affecting real estate transactions.  

Industry Concerns 

  • The industry letter supports the broad goal of preventing the use of LLCs or any form of real estate to finance illicit acts, money laundering, or terrorism – yet emphasizes that FinCEN should proceed cautiously to not harm legitimate real estate capital flows in the process.

  • The coalition also states that anti-money laundering rules and requirements should focus on risk while not burdening legitimate actors with unnecessary or duplicative compliance, which will only increase costs without meaningfully combating money laundering.
  • The coalition letter emphasizes three main recommendations for FinCEN:

    I.)   Study the commercial and multifamily real estate markets to tailor future regulation to how those markets function;

    II.)   Leverage the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) and the beneficial ownership database to reduce the necessary scope of further action; and

    III.)  Distinguish nonbank commercial real estate lenders from true all-cash transactions.

  • The Feb. 21 letter notes that the real estate industry supports efforts to provide the law enforcement community with the tools necessary to stop money laundering, terrorism financing, or other crimes. However, the coalition urges that any compliance regime should be structured in a manner that does not discourage CRE capital formation and investment.

FinCEN Comments

Compliance graphic

  • Earlier this month, a coalition of five real estate organizations, including The Roundtable, submitted concerns to FinCEN on a proposed federal registry with beneficial ownership information that would include rules on who must file, when, and what specific information must be provided.  (Coalition letter to FINCEN, Feb. 4)
  • The letter stated the industry supports efforts to eliminate terrorism financing and money laundering and appreciate efforts to protect the U.S. financial system from illicit actors and business entities. However, the coalition also raised concerns about the cost and compliance burden of imposing excessive, unnecessary and/or confusing beneficial ownership reporting requirements on real estate businesses.
  • The Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations also submitted detailed comments to FinCEN on May 5, 2021 addressing several implementation concerns related to the proposed registry. (Roundtable Weekly, May 7)
  • FinCEN has solicited comments on a wide range of questions related to its implementation of the CTA – enacted on January 1, 2021 – that effectively bans the registration of anonymously owned shell companies in the United States. (JD Supra, April 26 and Lexology, April 28)  

The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) will continue to work with industry partners to respond to FinCEN’s proposals. The industry will also continue to support a balanced approach that inhibits illicit money laundering activity while not restricting capital formation or increasing the regulatory burden on real estate.

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Biden Administration’s Proposal to Combat Money Laundering May Require New Real Estate Reporting Requirements

FinCEN logo

The Biden Administration on Dec. 6 announced it is seeking public comment about a proposed anti-money laundering rule that may result in increased reporting requirements about certain commercial real estate transactions. (Bloomberg, Dec. 6 and GlobeSt, Dec. 7)

Impact on Real Estate 

  • The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) this week to seek input on how to craft the new rule. “Broadly speaking, FinCEN has serious concerns with the money laundering risks associated with the commercial real estate sector,” according to the ANPRM. (FINCEN Fact Sheet: Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting, Dec. 7)
  • Two senior administration officials discussed the proposed rulemaking and its potential impact on the real estate industry during a media call on Dec. 6. One official stated, “We’re very focused on asking a number of questions around ways that any approach that we take towards this additional regulation can be used to minimize the regulatory burdens on the real estate sector.” (White House Background Press Call, Dec. 6)
  • The FINCEN initiative is part of a government-wide effort announced by the White House on Monday called the United States Strategy on Countering Corruption. (Washington Post, Dec. 7) 

FINCEN Concerns 

Anti Money-Laundering visual

  • Real estate transactions involving bank loans or other financing are less susceptible to money laundering because regulated financial institutions are required to report suspicious activity to FinCEN. When real estate is purchased with all cash, it can be nearly impossible to trace the beneficial owners behind shell companies often used in the transaction.
  • Currently, title insurance companies are required to report to FINCEN the identities of persons behind shell companies used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate costing over $300,000 that are located in one of a dozen metropolitan areas. (Bloomberg, Dec. 6)
  • Biden administration officials this week said the new rule could expand that reporting requirement beyond existing geographic areas to cover the entire U.S. – and potentially apply a new regulation to commercial real estate. (White House Background Press Call, Dec. 6). 

CRE Industry Response 

  • The Real Estate Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations on May 5, 2021 submitted detailed comments to FINCEN on several implementation concerns related to a proposed federal registry with beneficial ownership information. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 9)

The new ANPRM is open for comment until February 7, 2022. A response to FINCEN will be one of the topics discussed on Jan. 25 during The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) meeting in Washington, DC. 

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Real Estate Coalition Weighs In About Proposed Beneficial Ownership Reporting Requirements

 

FinCEN logo and graphic image

The Real Estate Roundtable and three other national real estate organizations on May 5 submitted detailed comments to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on the development of a new federal registry that will contain beneficial ownership information. 

Corporate Transparency Act 

  • The Roundtable, the National MultiFamily Housing Council (NMHC), National Apartment Association (NAA) and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) submitted the comments in response to FinCEN’s effort to gather public input on the reporting, maintenance and disclosure of beneficial ownership information. 
  • FinCEN solicited comments on a wide range of questions related to its implementation of the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) – enacted on January 1, 2021 – that effectively bans the registration of anonymously owned shell companies in the United States. (JD Supra, April 26 and Lexology, April 28) 
  • The CTA amended the Bank Secrecy Act to require corporations, limited liability companies, and similar entities to report certain information about their beneficial owners (the individual natural persons who ultimately own or control the companies). 

  • FinCEN is required to develop a confidential, secure, and non-public database to maintain the reported beneficial ownership information. This new reporting requirement aims to enhance the national security of the United States by making it more difficult for malign actors to exploit opaque legal structures to launder money, finance terrorism, proliferate weapons of mass destruction, traffic humans and drugs, and commit serious tax fraud and other crimes that harm the American people. 

Real Estate Industry Concerns 

Logos for NMHC-NAA-NAHB-RER

  • The real estate coalition’s extensive comments emphasize, “The scope of the CTA is far reaching and will impact many commercial and residential real estate businesses who are frequent users of the LLC structure for conducting business. If not implemented with a clear set of rules and regulations, the CTA could result in an outcome of confusion, missteps, and ultimately fines on law-abiding businesses.”
  • The coalition’s comments detail “concerns and recommendations for establishing regulations to implement reporting requirements – as well as provisions regarding FinCEN’s maintenance and disclosure of reported information effectively and fairly.”
  • The coalition document addresses several specific implementation issues, including how small companies targeted by the CTA will face compliance burdens. The time-consuming and challenging process of gathering required information on all beneficial owners of a reporting company that may have been created years ago is also addressed. 

Congressional Intent 

  • Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), ranking member of the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee, sent a letter on April 7 to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the development of the new beneficial ownership reporting regime.
  • The McHenry-Luetkemeyer letter urged Secretary Yellen to adhere to the CTA’s congressional intent by ensuring “the new reporting paradigm is focused on fighting bad actors such as human traffickers, money launderers, and State actors such as China.” The letter also emphasized that FinCEN implement the statute as intended, with a particular focus on minimizing burdens on small businesses while retaining confidentiality, unless disclosure is authorized. 

FinCEN is mandated to issue regulations on the new registry for beneficial ownership information by January 1, 2022 – and specify a subsequent effective date. 

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Industry and Business Coalitions Raise Concerns About Unintended Negative Consequences of Beneficial Ownership Legislation

As Congress strives to address the challenges of controlling the use of shell companies engaged in money laundering, tax evasion and terrorism financing, a number of legislative proposals are being considered that could impair capital formation and threaten important privacy protections for real estate.  In two recent comment letters (Nov. 6 industry coalition letter and a Nov. 13 broad business coalition letter), The Roundtable and other organizations detail their concerns about the measures. 

  • As stated in the Nov. 6 industry letter to the Senate Banking Committee, “While well-intentioned, we believe the proposals currently under consideration that are designed to increase the transparency of the ownership structure of limited liability companies (LLCs) and real estate transactions would have negative, unintended consequences on the broader real estate market.  Several of these bills would place a significant compliance burden on owners of small businesses classified as corporations and LLCs, subject these businesses to potentially harmful privacy breaches and expose them to excessive and punitive damages.”
  • The letter also states, “While we support efforts to eliminate terrorism financing and money laundering, we remain concerned about the cost of imposing additional beneficial ownership reporting requirements on real estate partnerships and the extent to which these provisions could impair capital formation, threaten important privacy protections and increase compliance burden.”
  • The four specific legislative measures under consideration in the House and Senate are:

* On Oct. 22, the House passed the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019 (H.R. 2513) – introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) – that would shift FinCEN reporting requirements from banks to the business community, requiring every business with fewer than 20 employees to register their beneficial owners.

* Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings, Illicit Cash Act (S. 2563)

* True Incorporation Transparence for Law Enforcement, TITLE Act, (S. 1889)

* Corporate Transparency Act (S. 1978)  

  • The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN) Customer Due Diligence (CDD) rule became applicable on May 11, 2018. The CDD rule requires financial institutions to collect the beneficial ownership information of business customers when they open accounts.  The congressional proposals would attempt to shift the reporting requirements from large banks – those best equipped to handle reporting requirements – to millions of small businesses – those least equipped to handle reporting requirements.
  • A coalition, including The Roundtable, sent a letter June 10 to the committee’s leadership opposing the Maloney-King bill.  “This legislation would impose burdensome, duplicative reporting burdens on approximately 4.9 million small businesses in the United States and threatens the privacy of law abiding, legitimate small business owners,” the letter states.
  • In the Nov. 6 letter from six real estate organizations, concerns about several of the four bills address:

* Unreasonable Lookback Reporting

* Duplicative Reporting

* Unclear Guidance

* Access and Disclosure Raises Privacy Concern

* Notification and Process for Compliance Untested

* Severe and Punitive Penalties

  • In the Nov. 13 letter, the broader business coalition expresses strong opposition to Title IV of S. 2563 – the Senate’s Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act – introduced in June by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Mike Rounds (R-SD).  (Homeland Preparedness News, June 12).
  • The Nov. 13 letter states, “Under this legislation, millions of small businesses would be required to register personally identifiable information with FinCEN, file updated reports within 90 days of any ownership changes, and file additional updated reports within a year of any ownership information changes, such as an expiration of a passport number or a change in address. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements could result in civil penalties of $500 per day up to $10,000, criminal penalties of up to 4 years in prison, or both.”

The Roundtable is working with policymakers to stake out a balanced position on the beneficial ownership issue that would inhibit illicit money laundering activity, yet not place unnecessary costs and legal burdens on the real estate industry.

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