Robert B. Serino has been the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's top cop for 27 years.

One of two deputy chief counsels, Mr. Serino oversees the agency's effort to root out fraud and money laundering.

Though he leads four agency divisions-including units overseeing bank securities and corporate practices-the crime-fighting responsibilities are clearly his passion.

Just two years out of Boston's Suffolk University Law School, Mr. Serino was hired from the Justice Department to create and direct the OCC's enforcement division.

"I had received invaluable experience in several bank fraud cases at the Justice Department, and when I came here I realized how valuable cooperation with the law enforcement offices would be," he said. "Government agencies can be very effective when they work together as one unit."

Mr. Serino has led high-profile efforts to strengthen enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act and establish cooperative efforts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies. He was promoted to deputy general counsel in 1983.

Pamela J. Johnson, senior coordinator of the Federal Reserve Board's fight against money laundering, credited Mr. Serino with spurring a various efforts at regulatory streamlining in recent years. She cited simplifying reports that must be filed for cash transactions of $10,000 or more and allowing banks to notify only their primary regulator when they spot suspicious activity, rather than making them contact a host of law enforcement agencies.

John J. Byrne, senior federal legislative counsel for the American Bankers Association, praised Mr. Serino for recognizing that bankers are allies in anti-crime efforts.

"It's easy to take cheap shots at the industry and grandstand on these issues and criticize the industry for not doing enough," he said. "But Bob recognizes that most bank officials are trying to do the right thing."

The next big initiative on the crime-fighting front is a long-awaited "Know Your Customer" rule aimed at helping banks spot individuals who are likely to break financial laws.

After years of delay, Mr. Serino said he expects the banking agencies to propose regulations before yearend. "We are very optimistic something will be promulgated within the next couple months," he said.

The details are still being debated, but Mr. Serino predicted regulators will place several broad requirements on banks. For instance, each would be required to design its own anti-fraud procedures, designate a specific individual to oversee compliance, implement an employee training program, and conduct regular audits to determine whether the policies are being followed.

Those general rules are likely to be accompanied by guidelines spelling out best practices, such as determining how an individual is using a particular account and where U.S. banks should document international deposits.

Down the road, he predicted, the banking agencies will issue rules to protect wire transfer and private banking services from being abused by money launders.

Mr. Serino, 57, said he maintains his enthusiasm by balancing his work with a variety of outside interests. The former starting guard and linebacker for Tufts University is also an accomplished woodworker, specializing in furniture and carved ducks.

A father of two daughters, Mr. Serino has been married for 29 years-and also spent 29 years in the Navy Reserve. He retired as a captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps in 1993.

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