New suspicious activity reporting rules designed to lighten banks' paperwork burden were published Monday.

Under the new rules, which take effect April 1, banks will be allowed to send suspicious activity reports solely to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, rather than seven or eight agencies as previously required.

The new regulation, published in the Federal Register, shields bankers from potential civil liability when filing reports. It also raises the dollar threshold for reporting, allows banks to keep supporting documents on computer disk or microfiche, and shortens the amount of time an institution must retain these records.

The new report form replaces the Criminal Referral Form and a box on Currency Transaction Reports.

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