HomeKohn, Kohn and Colapinto Wins a Major Victory in the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act

Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto Wins a Major Victory in the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act

Our team, working with the National Whistleblower Center and Whistleblower Network News, led a successful grassroots campaign that pushed for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Improvement Act. Continue reading to learn more about this pro bono effort.

AML Improvement Act

Our Firm’s Involvement

Stephen M. Kohn, a founding partner at our firm, discussed our involvement in the passing of this bill in an exclusive interview with Jane Turner on the Whistleblower Network News.

An Overview of Our Firms Involvement

In December 2020, KKC was the first to publicly identified loopholes in the AML law on which Congress was voting. Kohn identified the lack of any requirement to pay an award and the failure to create a fund to pay awards as devastating weaknesses in the law. Kohn published a scathing critique in The Hill. This criticism proved true as the law after Congress passed it on January 1, 2021, had no funding, and paying whistleblowers any compensation was impossible. After that, without funding or support, the law floundered. No awards were ever paid, no regulations were published, and the law was viewed as a failure.

Working pro bono with the National Whistleblower Center, KKC alerted key members of Congress to the importance of an effective AML whistleblower law and why the January 1st law could not work. Senator Grassley quickly understood these problems and led the charge on Capitol Hill to fix the law. KKC contacted potential sponsors and co-sponsors in the Senate and House. Kohn met with the Senate Banking and Appropriations Committees representatives and House Financial Services and Appropriations Committee. Numerous articles explaining the need for the Improvement Act, and addressing issues raised by Congressional staff, were published in The Hill, the National Law Review, and J.D. Supra. Ultimately the Senate unanimously approved the bill, as did the House Financial Services Committee.

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Read The Legislation

Major Landmarks in Campaign to Enact AML Whistleblower Protections

Whistleblowers around the world will be able to confidentially and anonymously provide information on money laundering and sanctions violations, and qualify for mandatory whistleblower rewards on par with the highly successful Dodd-Frank Act. Russian oligarchs are identified in the press as the first targets for the whistleblower disclosures.

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Filing an Anonymous AML/Money Laundering Complaint

President Biden signs the Omnimus budget, and the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act becomes law. The first AML whistleblower complaints under the Improvement Act are filed with the Department of Treasury and Justice against Russian oligarchs. The section that contains the AML is located in Section 401 in Public Law 117-328.

Congress approves the Omnibus Budget bill that includes the AML whistleblower reforms. Hill staffers express admiration for the grassroots outpouring of support for the whistleblower law, and call the successful campaign “eligant.” The campaign was completely driven by volunteer grassroots activism.

With the support of House leadership, including Maxine Waters, the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rosa DeLauro, the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, the House approves the staff-recommended proposal to include the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act on the Omnimous Budget bill schelded to be the last major peiece of legislation passed in the 117th Congress. Including the whistleblower bill on the law approving the entire federal budget was an unprecedented victory for whistleblowers, driven by the grassroots effort.

Based on discussions with Congressional staff, KKC and NWC filed detailed letters to the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee answering the various questions raised by Committee staff and explaining why the AML whistleblower law needed to be passed:
  • December 19, 2022: Explaining why law needed to fight human rights violations consistent with the Biden Administration’s Strategy on Combating Corruption.
  • December 15, 2022: Memo explaining why the AML whistleblower bill should not be blocked as an inappropriate appropriations measure.
  • December 12, 2022: Detailed explanation on how the AML whistleblower law can be used to incentivize transnational whistleblowers to disclose information on Russian money laundering, sanctions, and oligarchs.
  • November 21, 2022: Explanation of why AML whistleblower law in the public interest.
  • November 20, 2022: Explanation why the revolving fund used to pay whistleblowers is appropriate.

KKC publishes a detailed analysis as to how the pending AML whistleblower law can be used by Russians and citizens of countries allied with Russia to report money laundering, sanctions-busting, and expose where the Russian oligarchs have hidden their wealth. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/aml-bill-key-to-busting-russian-oligarchs.

The campaign heated up after the The Hill published The House Must Act on Whistleblower Bill to Protect Insiders who Report Russian Money Laundering,” The Hill (December 12, 2022)

The largest grassroots telephone-campaign in support of a whistleblower law is commenced, including a Podcast on Jane Turner’s popular “Whistleblower of the Week” program, editorials in Whistleblower Network News, email campaigns by KKC and the National Whistleblower Center, and a massive twitter campaign initiated by grassroots supporters nation-wide. Twitter alerts are estimated to have reached over 500,000 people and over 200,000 email alerts calling for phone calls to Congress are “opened.” Because the entire campaign was focused on volunteer grassroots activism, the precise numbers of persons who took action cannot be determined. Sources on Capitol Hill confirm that the responsible offices were “inundated” and completely “overwhelmed” by the phone-call and twitter grassroots and spontaneous activism.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passes the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act, creating the opportunity to include the bill on the Omnibus Budget Act being debated in Congress.

KKC attorneys commence drafting and sending letters to the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, endorsed by the Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, explaining the urgent need to pass the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act and addressing issues related to appropriations law.

Action in the House is held-up over issues related to “appropriations.”

Senator Grassley strongly urges AML whistleblower reforms in his National Whistleblower Day speech before the U.S. Senate.

The House Financial Services Committee unanimously approves the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act, and recommends passage by the House. The bill is strengthened to include whistleblower protections for reporting sanctions-busting. Holding Russian oligarchs accountable and stopping the illegal flow of technology and arms to Russia become the immediate primary target of the new law.

Representatives Alma Adams and Anthony Gonzalez introduce the AML Improvement Act in the House of Representatives.

One year after the AML whistleblower law was publicly criticized as been completely ineffective, Senators Charles Grassley and Raphael Warnock introduce the AML Whistleblower Improvement Act.

KKC urges Congress to reform AML whistleblower law in the National Defense Appropriation Act, but those attempts failed.

NWC sends letter to Congress urging reforms to AML whistleblower law. The letter is co-signed by leading whistleblower advocacy groups.

The NWC initiates a campaign to build public support for fixing the toothless AML whistleblower law.

Whistleblower Network News Commences Series of Articles throughout 2021-22 Explaining the Urgent Need to Fix the AML Whistleblower Law

Shortly after the original AML law was passed KKC published a detailed analysis of the law’s weaknesses as a roadmap for future legislative reforms.

The campaign was kicked off with the article in The Hill newspaper even before the original toothless AML whistleblower law was passed: See “Big Banks get a Big Break on Pending Whistleblower Law,” The Hill (December 7, 2020)

How to Report Money Laundering

If you suspect that someone is involved in money laundering, you should report it to the relevant authorities. In the United States, the primary agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting money laundering is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It is important to note that FinCEN does not have the authority to investigate individual cases or provide legal advice. However, the information you provide will be used to help identify and investigate potential money laundering activities.

You can report suspected money laundering to FinCEN by contacting the agency directly. You can do this by calling the FinCEN Resource Center at (800) 767-2825 or by sending an email. However, to file anonymously and confidentially, you must work with an AML attorney.

Contact our law firm today for a free and confidential case evaluation. Our team has worked on the largest money laundering cases in history, and can help you navigate the process of filing a claim.

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