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OCC Bulletin 2021-4 | January 21, 2021

Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Suspicious Activity Reporting and Other AML Considerations


Chief Executive Officers of All National Banks, Federal Savings Associations, and Federal Branches and Agencies; Department and Division Heads; All Examining Personnel; and Other Interested Parties


The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today issued responses to frequently asked questions regarding suspicious activity reporting and other anti-money laundering (AML) considerations for financial institutions covered by suspicious activity reporting rules. The frequently asked questions were developed in response to recent Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group recommendations.1 The answers to the frequently asked questions clarify the regulatory requirements related to suspicious activity reporting to assist covered financial institutions with their compliance obligations, while enabling financial institutions to focus resources on activities that produce the greatest value to law enforcement agencies and other government users of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting.

Note for Community Banks

The frequently asked questions apply to community banks.2


The frequently asked questions address the following topics:

  • Requests by law enforcement for financial institutions to maintain accounts
  • Receipt of grand jury subpoenas/law enforcement inquiries and suspicious activity report (SAR) filing
  • Maintaining a customer relationship following the filing of a SAR or multiple SARs
  • SAR filing on negative news identified in media searches
  • SAR monitoring on multiple negative media alerts
  • Information in data fields and narrative
  • SAR character limits

Further Information

Please contact James Vivenzio, Acting Director for BSA/AML Compliance Policy, at (202) 649-5470.


Grovetta N. Gardineer
Senior Deputy Comptroller for Bank Supervision Policy

Related Link

1 For more information, refer to FinCEN’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking titled “Anti-Money Laundering Program Effectiveness,” 85 Fed. Reg. 58023.

2 "Banks" refers collectively to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches and agencies of foreign banking organizations.