Consistent with efforts in recent years to apply banking laws to the art market, the prospects of passage of a bill in Congress that would apply those rules to a broad category of advisors and attorneys have recently increased. The “ENABLERS Act,” a gimmick of nomenclature apparent from the moment it was proposed, was briefly attached to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which in keeping with longstanding tradition easily passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 14, 2022. This tactic, which was also used to extend the reach of the Bank Secrecy Act to antiquities dealers in 2021, greatly enhances the odds that what seemed initially like an unserious publicity stunt might become law. Readers of the Art Law Report will not be surprised at a critical view here of the effort to place a square peg—the art market—into a round hole—bank oversight. This bill is considerably worse, however. Compounding the confusion is that despite widespread coverage about its attachment to the NDAA, the ENABLERS Act as originally proposed is not in the version of the NDAA that passed the House of Representatives last week (it was added then revised, notwithstanding at least one report to the contrary). What was approved for the moment omits the worst parts of the ENABLERS Act. But the perception that it is a done deal ironically may have the effect of lowering vigilance about its prospects. Even if this bill never becomes law, it has come much closer than it should have.
“ENABLERS Act” Pursues Art Market but Threatens Longstanding Protections Against Government Intrusion
Topics: Congress, Supreme Court, House of Representatives, AML, Money laundering, FinCEN, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Illicit Art and Antiquities Trafficking Protection, suspicious activity reports, Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. § 5312(a), National Defense Authorization Act, Treasury Department, ENABLERS Act, NDAA, art market regulation, Tom Malinowski, dealers in antiquities, JOHN HENRY WIGMORE, Berd v. Lovelace, Federal Rules of Evidence, Panama Papers, International Consortium Investigative Journalists, Offshore Leaks database, English Chancery Court, Blackburn v. Crawfords Lessee, Pandora Papers
In connection with the late-2020 amendment to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) to include “dealers in antiquities” as a result of its inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued a notice of “Efforts Related to Trade in Antiquities and Art.” The notice is a combination of guidance to entities now covered by the BSA, but it is also a potential backdoor around the entities that Congress chose not to regulate with respect to potential or perceived money laundering risks: art dealers. It also raises concerns about the objectivity of the forthcoming study of the art market that Congress instructed FinCEN to conduct. In either event, it is further evidence that momentum continues to gather for stricter oversight and regulation of the U.S. art market, and the importance of the art trade demonstrating more transparency and diligence if it hopes to modify or mitigate that regulation.
Topics: The Art Newspaper, Nazi-looted art, Antiquities, Terrorist financing, Responsible Art Market initiative, Money laundering, FinCEN, A Tragic Fate, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Illicit Art and Antiquities Trafficking Protection, suspicious activity reports, Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, Bank Secrecy Act, National Defense Authorization Act
A recent report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (headlined by Chairman Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Ranking Member Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware) has drawn widespread attention for its damning statements about the international art market. Focusing on purchases of art from major auction houses by Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian nationals described as “oligarchs” by the report, the Subcommittee makes a series of pronouncements about the supposed prevalence of money laundering in the art market, and the need for regulation to address this perceived problem. Yet upon closer read, the report is a recycling of clichés about the art market, a detailed description about the considerable diligence by the auction houses far beyond what any even theoretical regulation would require (thus begging the question of what lesser regulation would accomplish), and no discussion or empathy at all for the vast majority of small art businesses that could not possibly comply with such regulation and stay in business, let alone actually combat money laundering. In other words, in concluding that two men laundered money, the Senate committee deduces that the practice is rampant. This hardly follows as a matter of logic. Far from supporting the case for sweeping financial regulation of the art market, the report unintentionally makes the opposite point.
Topics: OFAC, Vladimir Putin, Uniform Commercial Code, House of Representatives, New York Times, Responsible Art Market initiative, Money laundering, FinCEN, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Boris Rotenberg, oligarch, shell companies, suspicious activity reports, Banking Secrecy Act, Politically Exposed Persons, Arkady Rotenberg, Treasury, ultimate beneficial owner, UBO, Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, Tom Carper, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Rob Portman