WASHINGTON — One of the top anti-money-laundering regulators warned credit unions that many of them do not appear to be properly following reporting requirements.

Speaking Tuesday to the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery said that an unusually large number of credit unions have not filed suspicious activity reports or currency transaction reports for nearly two years.

"Some early research we are looking at suggests that we have a surprisingly larger … statistically relevant and unusual number of credit unions that over a seven-quarter period — so almost a two-year period — filed neither a SAR or CTR," she told the trade group's congressional conference.

She acknowledged that "there could be problems with the data," but added that "the number is surprising, so we are trying to understand that."

Calvery said analysts at Fincen continually analyze data from sources such as the SARs and CTRs, which banks and credit unions are required to file to if they detect potential illegal activity or if cash transactions are more than $10,000.

The Fincen director also noted the push and pull that institutions are under as they are required to report suspicious activity and yet at the same time prevent illicit funds from entering the financial system.

"The transparency you provide through your reporting is incredibly important," Calvery said. "At the same time, we also ask you to keep dirty money from contaminating not only your own institution but the financial system as a whole and I can appreciate that those two messages can seem at odds with one another."

But she added that Fincen is hoping to "strike the right balance."

She also used an analogy of water in a bucket and how illegal activity might be attracted to smaller institutions that might not have the same resources as larger ones.

"Criminal money in our financial system is like water in a bucket with small holes, and that water is always going to find the spot to leak out, just like that dirty money is going to find the weakest link to make its way through," she said.

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