To strengthen the enforcement of anti-money laundering (AML) laws and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) regulations, Congress included in the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AMLA) a robust whistleblower reward program. The AMLA whistleblower rewards program requires the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to pay awards to whistleblowers who voluntarily provide original information leading to successful enforcement actions for AML violations.
Recently Congress strengthened the AMLA whistleblower rewards law by enacting the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act, which
- establishes a minimum award of 10% of collected monetary sanctions;
- creates an AML and counter-terrorism financing fund from which whistleblower awards can be paid (from sanctions collected in successful enforcement actions stemming from whistleblower disclosures); and
- expands the AMLA whistleblower law to reward disclosures of sanctions violations, i.e., violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, sections 5 and 12 of the Trading With the Enemy Act, or the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Congress included the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.
The AMLA whistleblower law will likely be a game changer in AML and sanctions enforcement and will strengthen national security by combating the illicit finance that is pivotal to the operation of terrorist groups and organized criminal enterprises. Fines in AML enforcement actions can be substantial and therefore AML whistleblowers have a strong incentive to report violations of the Bank Secrecy Act.
Recently Binance agreed to pay $3.4 billion for operating as an unregistered money services business while obscuring its ties to the U.S. and maintaining its most commercially important U.S. customers. Binance admitted that it willfully failed to establish, implement, and maintain an effective AML program and allowed a range of illicit actors to transact freely on the platform.
And in December 2022, Danske Bank agreed to pay more than $2 billion as part of an integrated, global resolution with the SEC, the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and Denmark’s Special Crime Unit. According to DOJ and SEC charges, Danske Bank misled investors about its AML compliance program in its Estonian branch, failed to disclose the risks posed by the program’s significant deficiencies, failed to comply with its AML and Know-Your-Customer procedures, and defrauded U.S. banks regarding Danske Bank Estonia’s customers and anti-money laundering controls to facilitate access to the U.S. financial system for Danske Bank Estonia’s high-risk customers.
This post provides an overview of the AMLA whistleblower rewards program.
Call our anti-money laundering whistleblower lawyers at 202-930-5901 or contact us to find out if you are eligible for an AML whistleblower award. A delay in reporting money laundering can potentially disqualify a whistleblower from recovering an award or can lower a whistleblower award, so call us today for a free consultation.
What is the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Reward Program?
The AMLA whistleblower law incentivizes whistleblowers to report money laundering by requiring the Department of Treasury to pay an award of 10% to 30% of collected monetary sanctions that it recovers in a judicial or administrative action brought under the Bank Secrecy Act that results in sanctions exceeding $1,000,000. The Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act expands the AMLA whistleblower program to encompass whistleblowing about violations of U.S. sanctions, i.e., violations of these statutes:
- the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.);
- sections 5 and 12 of the Trading With the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. 4305; 4312); or
- the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.).
To qualify for an award, the whistleblower must voluntarily provide original information to their employer, Treasury, or the Department of Justice.
The AMLA whistleblower reward program is modeled on the highly successful SEC whistleblower program. Since its inception, the SEC whistleblower program has enabled the SEC to uncover significant investment fraud schemes and halt ongoing fraud. Since 2011, the SEC has paid more than $1.3 billion in awards to whistleblowers for providing information that led to successful enforcement actions.Guide to Anti-Money Laundering Act Whistleblower Rewards and Protections
Who is Eligible for an AMLA Whistleblower Reward?
In contrast to the SEC whistleblower program eligibility rules, the AMLA whistleblower reward program does not impose limitations on award eligibility for whistleblowers who gain information through the performance of compliance or audit job duties. Indeed, the AMLA whistleblower law expressly authorizes compliance personnel to obtain AML whistleblower awards in that the term “whistleblower” includes an individual who provides information relating to a violation “as part of the job duties of the individual.” Non-U.S. citizens are eligible for AMLA whistleblower awards.
Can a Whistleblower Report Money Laundering or Sanctions Violations Anonymously?
If represented by an attorney, an AMLA whistleblower may submit a tip anonymously to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The AMLA whistleblower rewards law requires Treasury and Justice to take steps to protect the confidentiality of AML whistleblower submissions. Any officer or employee of either agency must not disclose information provided by a whistleblower “which could reasonably be expected to reveal the identity of a whistleblower,” except where the agency is required to disclose the information to a defendant in a public proceeding instituted by the agency and in accordance with the Privacy Act.
A whistleblower can also qualify for an SEC whistleblower award by reporting a broker-dealer’s AML violations to the SEC. See the SEC’s Anti-Money Laundering Source Tool for Broker-Dealers.
How Does the AMLA Whistleblower Reward Program Determine the Amount of an AMLA Whistleblower Reward?
To determine the amount of an AMLA whistleblower award, Treasury will consider:
- the significance of the information provided by the whistleblower to the success of the covered money laundering judicial or administrative action;
- the degree of assistance provided by the whistleblower and any legal representative;
- the programmatic interest of Treasury in deterring the particular violations that the whistleblower disclosed; and
- additional relevant factors that Treasury will promulgate, which will likely echo the factors that the SEC employs to determine the amount of an SEC whistleblower award.
What Monetary Sanctions Qualify for an AMLA Whistleblower Reward?
The monetary sanctions collected in any judicial or administrative action that can qualify for an AMLA whistleblower award include any monies, including penalties, disgorgement, and interest ordered to be paid, but excludes (i) forfeiture; (ii) restitution; and (iii) any victim compensation payment.
An AMLA whistleblower may also qualify for a “related action” award, which is any judicial or administrative action brought by (i) any appropriate federal authority; (ii) a state attorney general in connection with any criminal investigation; or (iii) any appropriate state regulatory authority, when the action is based on the original information provided by the whistleblower and led to the successful enforcement of the action by Treasury or Justice. Treasury can reduce the amount of an award in a related action in which the whistleblower received a payment from another whistleblower award program, e.g., where the whistleblower receives an SEC whistleblower award for reporting a broker-dealer’s failure to file suspicious activity reports or failure to maintain an anti-money laundering compliance program.
How Will FinCEN Pay AMLA Whistleblower Awards?
The Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act established the Financial Integrity Fund to pay whistleblower awards. Monetary sanctions collected by DOJ or Treasury in any judicial or administrative action stemming from an AMLA whistleblower disclosure are deposited into the fund until the balance of the Fund exceeds $300,000,000.
Are AMLA Whistleblowers Protected Against Retaliation?
Section 6314(g) of the AMLA creates a private right of action for whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation for disclosing potential Bank Secrecy Act violations to Treasury or Justice, a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency, Congress, or a person with supervisory authority over the whistleblower. It also protects a whistleblower assisting in any investigation or judicial or administrative action of Treasury or Justice based on or related to the information that the whistleblower disclosed to the government.
A prevailing whistleblower in an AMLA whistleblower retaliation claim can obtain reinstatement, double back pay with interest, uncapped compensatory damages, reasonable attorney fees, any other appropriate remedy with respect to the conduct that is the subject of the action.
In contrast to Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protection provision, AMLA-protected whistleblowing does not require a threshold showing that the whistleblower reported a potential BSA violation to the appropriate regulatory agency. Instead, internal whistleblowing alone is protected. Moreover, the whistleblower need not meet the AMLA requirements for award eligibility to be protected under the anti-retaliation provision.
Similar to the SOX whistleblower protection law, the AMLA prohibits a wide range of retaliatory acts, including directly or indirectly discharging, demoting, suspending, threatening, blacklisting, harassing, or in any other manner discriminating against a whistleblower in the terms and conditions of employment due to the employee’s protected whistleblowing.
AMLA retaliation claims must be filed initially with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration within 90 days of the whistleblower being notified of the adverse action, and 180 days after filing, the whistleblower can remove the claim to federal court and try the case before a jury.
How Can an AML Whistleblower Lawyer Help a Whistleblower Maximize their Recovery?
The anti-money laundering whistleblower attorneys at Zuckerman Law have represented whistleblowers disclosing AML and sanctions violations. Our multi-disciplinary whistleblower rewards practice is staffed with an attorney who is also a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner with substantial experience investigating complex financial frauds.
Our team of AML whistleblower lawyers can:
- Enable a whistleblower to report anonymously.
- Help a whistleblower qualify for an award under other whistleblower reward programs, such as the IRS whistleblower reward program or the SEC whistleblower reward program.
- Skillfully guide a whistleblower through the process, maximizing the likelihood that they will qualify for an award.
- Assist the whistleblower to combat workplace retaliation.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you report AML or sanctions violations while remaining anonymous.
AML Whistleblower Lawyers’ Expert Analysis About the AML Whistleblower Reward Program
AML Whistleblower Rewards Law
31 USC 5323. Whistleblower incentives and protections
(a) Definitions.-In this section:
(1) Covered judicial or administrative action.-The term “covered judicial or administrative action” means any judicial or administrative action brought by the Secretary of the Treasury (referred to in this section as the “Secretary”) or the Attorney General under this subchapter, chapter 35 or section 4305 or 4312 of title 50, the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.), or .),1 and for conspiracies to violate the aforementioned provisions that results in monetary sanctions exceeding $1,000,000.
(2) Monetary sanctions.-The term “monetary sanctions”, when used with respect to any judicial or administrative action-
(A) means any monies, including penalties, disgorgement, and interest, ordered to be paid; and
(B) does not include-
(ii) restitution; or
(iii) any victim compensation payment.
(3) Original information.-The term “original information” means information that-
(A) is derived from the independent knowledge or analysis of a whistleblower;
(B) is not known to the Secretary or the Attorney General from any other source, unless the whistleblower is the original source of the information; and
(C) is not exclusively derived from an allegation made in a judicial or administrative hearing, in a governmental report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, unless the whistleblower is a source of the information.
(4) Related action.-The term “related action”, when used with respect to any covered judicial or administrative action brought by the Secretary or the Attorney General, means any judicial or administrative action brought by an entity described in any of subclauses (I) through (III) of subsection (g)(4)(D)(i) that is based upon the original information provided by a whistleblower pursuant to subsection (b) that led to the successful enforcement of the covered action.
(A) In general.-The term “whistleblower” means any individual who provides, or 2 or more individuals acting jointly who provide, information relating to a violation of this subchapter, chapter 35 or section 4305 or 4312 of title 50, the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.), or .),1 and for conspiracies to violate the aforementioned provisions to the employer of the individual or individuals, including as part of the job duties of the individual or individuals, or to the Secretary or the Attorney General.
(B) Special rule.-Solely for the purposes of subsection (g)(1), the term “whistleblower” includes any individual who takes, or 2 or more individuals acting jointly who take, an action described in subsection (g)(1)(A).
(1) In general.-In any covered judicial or administrative action, or related action, the Secretary, under regulations prescribed by the Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General and subject to subsection (c), shall pay an award or awards to 1 or more whistleblowers who voluntarily provided original information to the employer of the individual, the Secretary, or the Attorney General, as applicable, that led to the successful enforcement of the covered judicial or administrative action, or related action, in an aggregate amount equal to-
(A) not less than 10 percent, in total, of what has been collected of the monetary sanctions imposed in the action or related actions; and
(B) not more than 30 percent, in total, of what has been collected of the monetary sanctions imposed in the action or related actions.
(2) Payment of awards.-
(A) In general.-Any amount paid under paragraph (1) shall be paid from the Fund established under paragraph (3).
(B) Related actions.-The Secretary may pay awards less than the amount described in paragraph (1)(A) for related actions in which a whistleblower may be paid by another whistleblower award program.
(3) Source of awards.-
(A) In general.-There shall be established in the Treasury of the United States a revolving fund to be known as the Financial Integrity Fund (referred to in this subsection as the “Fund”).
(B) Use of fund.-The Fund shall be available to the Secretary, without further appropriation or fiscal year limitations, only for the payment of awards to whistleblowers as provided in subsection (b).
(C) Restrictions on use of fund.-The Fund shall not be available to pay any personnel or administrative expenses.
(4) Deposits and credits.-
(A) In general.-There shall be deposited into or credited to the Fund an amount equal to-
(i) any monetary sanction collected by the Secretary or Attorney General in any judicial or administrative action under this title, chapter 35 or section 4305 or 4312 of title 50, or the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.), unless the balance of the Fund at the time the monetary sanction is collected exceeds $300,000,000; and
(ii) all income from investments made under paragraph (5).
(B) Additional amounts.-If the amounts deposited into or credited to the Fund under subparagraph (A) are not sufficient to satisfy an award made under this subsection, there shall be deposited into or credited to the Fund an amount equal to the unsatisfied portion of the award from any monetary sanction collected by the Secretary of the Treasury or Attorney General in the covered judicial or administrative action on which the award is based.
(C) Exception.-No amounts to be deposited or transferred into the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund pursuant to the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act (34 U.S.C. 20144) or the Crime Victims Fund pursuant section 1402 of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (34 U.S.C. 20101) shall be deposited into or credited to the Fund.
(A) Amounts in fund may be invested.-The Secretary of the Treasury may invest the portion of the Fund that is not required to meet the current needs of the Fund.
(B) Eligible investments.-Investments shall be made by the Secretary of the Treasury in obligations of the United States or obligations that are guaranteed as to principal and interest by the United States, with maturities suitable to the needs of the Fund as determined by the Secretary.
(C) Interest and proceeds credited.-The interest on, and the proceeds from the sale or redemption of, any obligations held in the Fund shall be credited to, and form a part of, the Fund.
(c) Determination of Amount of Award; Denial of Award.-
(1) Determination of amount of award.-
(A) Discretion.-The determination of the amount of an award made under subsection (b) shall be in the discretion of the Secretary.
(B) Criteria.-In determining the amount of an award made under subsection (b), the Secretary shall take into consideration-
(i) the significance of the information provided by the whistleblower to the success of the covered judicial or administrative action;
(ii) the degree of assistance provided by the whistleblower and any legal representative of the whistleblower in a covered judicial or administrative action;
(iii) the programmatic interest of the Department of the Treasury in deterring violations of this this 1 subchapter, chapter 35 or section 4305 or 4312 of title 50, and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) by making awards to whistleblowers who provide information that lead to the successful enforcement of the covered judicial or administrative action; and
(iv) such additional relevant factors as the Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General, may establish by rule or regulation.
(2) Denial of award.-No award under subsection (b) may be made-
(A) to any whistleblower who is, or was at the time the whistleblower acquired the original information submitted to the Secretary or the Attorney General, as applicable, a member, officer, or employee-
(I) an appropriate regulatory or banking agency;
(II) the Department of the Treasury or the Department of Justice; or
(III) a law enforcement agency; and
(ii) acting in the normal course of the job duties of the whistleblower;
(B) to any whistleblower who is convicted of a criminal violation related to the judicial or administrative action for which the whistleblower otherwise could receive an award under this section; or
(C) to any whistleblower who fails to submit information to the Secretary or the Attorney General, as applicable, in such form as the Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General, may, by rule, require.
(1) Permitted representation.-Any whistleblower who makes a claim for an award under subsection (b) may be represented by counsel.
(2) Required representation.-
(A) In general.-Any whistleblower who anonymously makes a claim for an award under subsection (b) shall be represented by counsel if the whistleblower anonymously submits the information upon which the claim is based.
(B) Disclosure of identity.-Before the payment of an award, a whistleblower shall disclose the identity of the whistleblower and provide such other information as the Secretary may require, directly or through counsel for the whistleblower.
(e) No Contract Necessary.-No contract with the Department of the Treasury is necessary for any whistleblower to receive an award under subsection (b), unless otherwise required by the Secretary by rule or regulation.
(1) In general.-Any determination made under this section, including whether, to whom, or in what amount to make awards, shall be in the discretion of the Secretary.
(A) In general.-Any determination described in paragraph (1), except the determination of the amount of an award if the award was made in accordance with subsection (b), may be appealed to the appropriate court of appeals of the United States not more than 30 days after the determination is issued by the Secretary.
(B) Scope of review.-The court to which a determination by the Secretary is appealed under subparagraph (A) shall review the determination in accordance with section 706 of title 5.
(g) Protection of Whistleblowers.-
(1) Prohibition against retaliation.-No employer may, directly or indirectly, discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, blacklist, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against a whistleblower in the terms and conditions of employment or post-employment because of any lawful act done by the whistleblower-
(A) in providing information in accordance with this section to-
(i) the Secretary or the Attorney General;
(ii) a Federal regulatory or law enforcement agency;
(iii) any Member of Congress or any committee of Congress; or
(iv) a person with supervisory authority over the whistleblower, or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct; or
(B) in initiating, testifying in, or assisting in any investigation or judicial or administrative action of the Department of the Treasury or the Department of Justice based upon or related to the information described in subparagraph (A); or
(C) in providing information regarding any conduct that the whistleblower reasonably believes constitutes a violation of any law, rule, or regulation subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of the Treasury, or a violation of section 1956, 1957, or 1960 of title 18 (or any rule or regulation under any such provision), to-
(i) a person with supervisory authority over the whistleblower at the employer of the whistleblower; or
(ii) another individual working for the employer described in clause (i) who the whistleblower reasonably believes has the authority to-
(I) investigate, discover, or terminate the misconduct; or
(II) take any other action to address the misconduct.
(2) Enforcement.-Any individual who alleges discharge or other discrimination, or is otherwise aggrieved by an employer, in violation of paragraph (1), may seek relief by-
(A) filing a complaint with the Secretary of Labor in accordance with the requirements of this subsection; or
(B) if the Secretary of Labor has not issued a final decision within 180 days of the filing of a complaint under subparagraph (A), and there is no showing that such a delay is due to the bad faith of the claimant, bringing an action against the employer at law or in equity in the appropriate district court of the United States, which shall have jurisdiction over such an action without regard to the amount in controversy.
(A) Department of labor complaint.-
(i) In general.-Except as provided in clause (ii) and subparagraph (C), the requirements under section 42121(b) of title 49, including the legal burdens of proof described in such section 42121(b), shall apply with respect to a complaint filed under paragraph (2)(A) by an individual against an employer.
(ii) Exception.-With respect to a complaint filed under paragraph (2)(A), notification required to be made under section 42121(b)(1) of title 49 shall be made to each person named in the complaint, including the employer
(B) District court complaint.-
(i) Jury trial.-A party to an action brought under paragraph (2)(B) shall be entitled to trial by jury.
(ii) Statute of limitations.-
(I) In general.-An action may not be brought under paragraph (2)(B)-
(aa) more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of paragraph (1) occurs; or
(bb) more than 3 years after the date on which when facts material to the right of action are known, or reasonably should have been known, by the employee alleging a violation of paragraph (1).
(II) Required action within 10 years.-Notwithstanding subclause (I), an action under paragraph (2)(B) may not in any circumstance be brought more than 10 years after the date on which the violation occurs.
(C) Relief.-Relief for an individual prevailing with respect to a complaint filed under subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) or an action brought under subparagraph (B) of that paragraph shall include-
(i) reinstatement with the same seniority status that the individual would have had, but for the conduct that is the subject of the complaint or action, as applicable;
(ii) 2 times the amount of back pay otherwise owed to the individual, with interest;
(iii) the payment of compensatory damages, which shall include compensation for litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorneys’ fees; and
(iv) any other appropriate remedy with respect to the conduct that is the subject of the complaint or action, as applicable.
(A) In general.-Except as provided in subparagraphs (C) and (D), the Secretary or the Attorney General, as applicable, and any officer or employee of the Department of the Treasury or the Department of Justice, shall not disclose any information, including information provided by a whistleblower to either such official, which could reasonably be expected to reveal the identity of a whistleblower, except in accordance with the provisions of section 552a of title 5, unless and until required to be disclosed to a defendant or respondent in connection with a public proceeding instituted by the appropriate such official or any entity described in subparagraph (D).
(B) Exempted statute.-For purposes of section 552 of title 5, this paragraph shall be considered a statute described in subsection (b)(3)(B) of such section 552.
(C) Rule of construction.-Nothing in this section is intended to limit, or shall be construed to limit, the ability of the Attorney General to present such evidence to a grand jury or to share such evidence with potential witnesses or defendants in the course of an ongoing criminal investigation.
(D) Availability to government agencies.-
(i) In general.-Without the loss of its status as confidential in the hands of the Secretary or the Attorney General, as applicable, all information referred to in subparagraph (A) may, in the discretion of the appropriate such official, when determined by that official to be necessary to accomplish the purposes of this subchapter, chapter 35 or section 4305 or 4312 of title 50, or the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (21 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.), be made available to-
(I) any appropriate Federal authority;
(II) a State attorney general in connection with any criminal investigation;
(III) any appropriate State regulatory authority; and
(IV) a foreign law enforcement authority.
(I) In general.-Each of the entities described in subclauses (I) through (III) of clause (i) shall maintain such information as confidential in accordance with the requirements established under subparagraph (A).
(II) Foreign authorities.-Each entity described in clause (i)(IV) shall maintain such information in accordance with such assurances of confidentiality as determined by the Secretary or Attorney General, as applicable.
(5) Rights retained.-Nothing in this section shall be deemed to diminish the rights, privileges, or remedies of any whistleblower under any Federal or State law or under any collective bargaining agreement.
(6) Coordination with other provisions of law.-This subsection shall not apply with respect to any employer that is subject to section 33 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1831j) or section 213 or 214 of the Federal Credit Union Act (12 U.S.C. 1790b, 1790c).
(h) Provision of False Information.-A whistleblower shall not be entitled to an award under this section if the whistleblower-
(1) knowingly and willfully makes any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
- (2) uses any false writing or document knowing the writing or document contains any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.
(i) Rulemaking Authority.-The Secretary, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall have the authority to issue such rules and regulations as may be necessary or appropriate to implement the provisions of this section consistent with the purposes of this section.
(j) Nonenforceability of Certain Provisions Waiving Rights and Remedies or Requiring Arbitration of Disputes.-
(1) Waiver of rights and remedies.-The rights and remedies provided for in this section may not be waived by any agreement, policy form, or condition of employment, including by a predispute arbitration agreement.
(2) Predispute arbitration agreements.-No predispute arbitration agreement shall be valid or enforceable, to the extent the agreement requires arbitration of a dispute arising under this section.