ALEXANDRIA, Va.-As U.S. military forces are geared up for war in the Middle East, domestic financial institutions are waging a war of their own on terrorist financing and money laundering schemes. NCUA issued a Regulatory Alert informing credit unions that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network is reinstating USA PATRIOT Act, Section 314 information requests and to provide guidance. Though the alert was only recently released, FinCEN's reinstatement of the requests was effective February 17. A moratorium had been placed on the requests Nov. 26, 2002 for revisions to the process. NCUA and the other regulator agencies and law enforcement have agreed on the process and developed guidance. Credit unions that have provided NCUA an e-mail address or fax number, as requested by NCUA Letter to Credit Unions #01-CU-18 (October 2001), should be receiving requests already. Those that have not, must provide the information with the March 31, 2003 call report to receive requests and comply with required searches. Examiners will determine that this contact information is reported during each call report cycle to ensure its accuracy. Failure to comply with the information requests is a violation of the Bank Secrecy Act. Changes to the request process include: * 314(a) requests will be batched and issued every two weeks, unless otherwise indicated. * Financial institutions will have two weeks, rather than one, upon receiving the request to complete searches and respond with any matches. * Searches will be limited to specific records and will be a one-time search unless otherwise noted. * Financial institutions identifying a match for a named subject need only respond to FinCEN that it has a match and provide point-of-contact information for the requesting law enforcement agency to follow-up directly with the institution. FinCEN will issue general instructions with the bi-weekly requests and a list of frequently asked questions will be sent to the "System 314 addressees" one time only. In the Regulatory Alert, NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar directed any questions to the appropriate regional office, examiner, state supervisory authority, or FinCEN's Regulatory Helpline at 1-800-949-2732. In related news FinCEN also issued guidance related to 314(a) requirements. Search requests beyond the normal parameters are only required if electronically feasible, but the information may be subpoenaed by law enforcement later, according to the guidance. Additionally, batched 314(a) transmissions will include a consolidated index of the requested names in tab-delimited format for greater efficiency. Finally, only the highest priority requests are being passed on to credit unions and financial institutions.

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