A topic that is often discussed in the fraud and financial crimes arena is the necessity of partnering: financial institutions should partner with law enforcement and regulatory agencies and vice versa. But why is partnering so important? At BAI Payment Connect Conference & Expo, Terry Thornton, Senior Vice President, Fraud Services at Comerica, shared some best practices from a recently published BITS white paper on the topic. (The white paper, Establishing and Maintaining Relationships with Law Enforcement Agencies, is available to BITS members.)
Thornton began her presentation by outlining the discoveries the team had made during the early research for the paper. They wanted to know what the communication challenges were from both the law enforcement and bank sides. Take a look at these questions and see if they look like ones you face:
- Who do I contact in the bank?
- Where are the supporting documents?
- I don’t know what bank documents to ask for?
- Do you have photos?
- I don’t understand bank terminology.
- Who has jurisdiction over my case?
- What agency do we go to for this?
- What are the dollar limits of the cases they work?
- How can I encourage the prosecutor to notice my case?
According to Thornton, one way to be successful in your approach to law enforcement is to approach the right agency with a well put together document. That sounds easy, but it requires some ground work – ground work that many FIs don’t understand the need for and don’t feel that they have time for.
“A peer of mine once said that he didn’t care about prosecution of fraud; all he cared about was stopping fraud before it happened,” said Thornton. “In today’s fast-paced environment, we have to accept the fact that some fraud may get through, so we need to become partners with law enforcement so that we can learn from the investigations and share the information to ensure that the fraud doesn’t happen again.”
Here are some of Thornton’s tips for building those relationships:
Before an incident occurs
- Develop working relationships with state, local and federal investigators.
- Routinely exchange as much information as possible.
- Consider a designated liaison or phone line to assist law enforcement and prosecutors.
When an incident occurs
- Make contact with law enforcement early.
- Assign a point person or liaison.
- Provide information and documentation.
- Make the information as understandable (explain banking jargon) as possible.
“Think of your SARs as a resume,” says Thornton. “You want yours to be the winner – the one that is picked, so make it concise, complete and understandable. Don’t use bank terminology that isn’t explained completely.”
Why is partnering important? When an incident occurs, everyone knows who to talk to and understands the procedures and terminology. It seems so simple, but like any relationship it takes constant care.