largest companies from currency transaction reports. That's because the Treasury Department is having so much trouble identifying the companies banks can assume are not laundering money. And Treasury officials don't want to make banks wait any longer to find out. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has been struggling since late last year to determine which companies can conduct cash transactions over $10,000 at banks without triggering a transaction report. If a plan cannot be completed by Dec. 31, the agency will release a list of the 2,000 companies that do the largest volume of cash business at banks and exempt them from the filings, Fincen Director Stanley E. Morris said last week. The government's goal, he said, is to cut the yearly number of transaction reports to six million from the current average of 11 million. Exempting the 2,000 companies would cut the average by a third, he said. Currently, the government forces banks to judge which companies to exclude. But John J. Byrne, the American Bankers Association's senior federal legislative counsel, said banks have continued to file transaction reports on even the largest companies, for fear of making a bad judgment. Mr. Morris said banks cannot be kept in the dark much longer. "I've been telling my staff, let's get something out there," Mr. Morris said at the ABA's Money Laundering Enforcement Seminar. "If we can't come up with an easy, one-step way" of exempting businesses soon, he said, "we'll release the list." Among those companies that would likely be exempt are KMart, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and other big, long-successful national businesses. All government agencies also would become exempt. Mr. Byrne said giving banks at least a preliminary exemption list would be a strong first step, and should appease worried bankers. "Bankers need to recognize that this exemption issue is not going to be resolved overnight," Mr. Byrne said. "The fact that they're taking this step is sign of how committed they are to getting this issue settled." Though the agency is seeking to drastically cut the amount of transaction reports filed, Mr. Morris said he still thinks the reports are necessary. "I think currency reporting is very important because it's a great impediment in front of launderers," Mr. Morris said."But I don't think there need to be 11 million of them."
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