After more than three months of delay, new suspicious- activity report forms for use by banks are finished and should be released within two weeks, government officials said Tuesday.
The new report - which banks are likely to begin filing in March - replaces the Criminal Referral Form and a box on Currency Transaction Reports that banks have been checking and backing up with documentation explaining the suspicious activity.
Joyce McDonald, a spokeswoman for the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said the long-awaited forms need to be approved by the four banking and thrift regulators and the Internal Revenue Service.
A bank regulator said Wednesday that the new forms will mirror the three-page draft copy released in September, except for "a couple of nonsignificant changes."
However, the instructions bankers will use to complete the forms have been vastly expanded to include key parts of the regulations, according to a top Treasury official. The department's aim, she said, was to save bankers the trouble of looking up the rules when filling out the forms.
Suspicious-activity reports are required on cash transactions of $5,000 or more if a bank has a "substantial basis" for suspecting the customer. If there is no basis for suspicion, no filing is necessary for transactions under $25,000.
On the first page of the reports, bankers will provide information about their institution and the customer who conducted the transaction. The second page requests the date, dollar amount, and type of suspicious activity, information on any witness to the transaction, and the person preparing the report. The third page is for the banker's written comments.
The recent federal government shutdown contributed to the delayed release of the new forms because it kept people off the job who were setting up the data base on which the information will be stored. The government plans to require institutions to file these new reports with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network rather than a number of agencies. The Treasury unit will be a clearing house for the data.