| by Jason Warburg

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Professor Moyara Ruehsen
Professor Moyara Ruehsen is serving on the Taskforce on a Transatlantic Response to Illicit Finance, a project of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security at RUSI, a major think tank in the United Kingdom. (Credit: Elena Zhukova )

The United States and the United Kingdom must match their rhetoric about combating financial crime with effective policies backed by fully staffed enforcement programs, says Middlebury Institute Professor of Financial Crime Intelligence Moyara Ruehsen, a member of an international task force charged with recommending reforms to current financial crime laws and regulations.

“The embarrassing part,” says Professor Ruehsen, head of the Institute’s Financial Crime Management program, “is that the UK and the U.S. are always lecturing other countries on what they should and shouldn’t do with respect to anti–money laundering and anti–terrorism financing and counterproliferation financing, when we have failed to implement what we ourselves have identified as best practices. That has to stop. We need to get our own houses in order.”

The Taskforce on a Transatlantic Response to Illicit Finance (TARIF) is a project of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security at RUSI, a major UK think tank. Ruehsen was appointed last year to the international task force, which includes former policy makers in the UK and U.S., as well as private sector and academic experts, with the goal of recommending policies to counter “the illicit finance threats affecting the UK and U.S. and the broader international community.”

“RUSI decided that something needed to be done about the glaring gaps in the anti–money laundering regimes of the UK and the U.S.,” explains Ruehsen. In the U.S., the recently approved Corporate Transparency Act has reduced the ability of “oligarchs, fraudsters, and tax evaders” to hide behind corporate anonymity by requiring all corporations to disclose their true ownership in a registry accessible to law enforcement officials. Ruehsen considers this measure “a step in the right direction,” while also pointing out that even Russia and China have stricter laws governing the public disclosure of corporate ownership than does the U.S. or UK.

The U.S. and UK’s regulatory and law enforcement regimes continue to lag behind developments in other countries. In a recent podcast produced by RUSI, Ruehsen notes that “the U.S. is behind the curve in regulating new technologies like cryptocurrency and fintech [digital payments]. We’re just not prepared yet to adequately regulate that growing sector.”

Participating on the task force expands my network in the field, which expands the potential opportunities available to my students. I love being a connector.
— Professor Moyara Ruehsen

After meeting three times over the course of the past 12 months, the TARIF task force is currently finalizing its “Plan for Action,” a document offering extensive recommendations aimed at addressing current legislative and regulatory vulnerabilities and strengthening and expanding the tools available to law enforcement and regulators. “The U.S. and the UK are still providing the getaway cars for many criminals,” says Ruehsen, “because of how easy it is to set up anonymous shell corporations, trusts, and foundations in our jurisdictions. And to date we haven’t done nearly enough about it.”

The Plan for Action, currently being fine-tuned prior to its formal release, is expected to include specific measures aimed at the following:

  • Acknowledging the U.S. and UK’s historic roles in enabling international illicit finance;
  • Reforming and enhancing existing laws and regulations;
  • Establishing verified, accessible corporate registries;
  • Creating sustainable funding models for law enforcement and regulatory bodies;
  • Building up the digital skills and technical know-how of law enforcement and regulatory staff;
  • Improving information sharing, coordination, and asset recovery and return efforts; and
  • Supporting and creating better legal protections for civil society actors who expose corruption and illicit financial flows.

Ruehsen sees her work with TARIF as a complement to and extension of her teaching and mentorship of students in the Institute’s Financial Crime Management program. “My role is not just to teach my students new skills but to help them launch careers in this field with internships or jobs,” she says. “Participating on the task force expands my network in the field, which expands the potential opportunities available to my students. I love being a connector.” She adds that she has invited members of the task force to be guest speakers in her classroom and believes that her participation on the task force helps “elevate the visibility of the Institute and our financial crime program.”

For More Information

Financial Cime Management