John Byrne, CAMS: Let’s Stay Together


ACAMS Today  asked John Byrne, CAMS to discuss 10 years of the ACAMS Today  Law Enforcement (LE) edition, successful public-private partnerships, and more. Byrne is vice chairman and member of the board of directors of AML RightSource. He is an ACAMS advisory board member and was formerly the executive vice president of ACAMS. He is also an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

Byrne is an internationally known regulatory and legislative attorney, and one of the leading anti-money laundering (AML) community voices for over 35 years. He has experience in a vast array of financial service-related issues, with particular expertise in regulatory oversight, policy and governance, AML, privacy and terrorist financing. He has written hundreds of articles and blogs on AML, financial crime and privacy; represented the financial sector in this area before the U.S. Congress, state legislatures and international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force; and appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, the Today Show, and many other media outlets in the U.S. and abroad.

Byrne has received numerous awards, including the Director’s Medal for Exceptional Service  from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network; the American Bankers Association’s Distinguished Service Award  for his career work in the compliance field; as well as several awards for writing columns and blogs and for his podcast, “AML Now” (which has become “AML Conversations”). In addition, Byrne was recognized with the ACAMS Lifetime Service Award  in September 2017.

ACAMS Today:  How did the ACAMS Today  LE edition come to fruition?

We all know that AML and financial crime prevention need communication, collaboration and cooperation to succeed and this success is only possible through partnerships

John Byrne: One of the main reasons Karla Monterrosa-Yancey and I started ACAMS Today’s Law Enforcement (LE) edition was our shared view of the need to recognize the key partners in our community—state, local, federal and international LE. We all know that AML and financial crime prevention need communication, collaboration and cooperation to succeed and this success is only possible through partnerships. Partnership requires sharing information, strategies and missions, and in AML that translates into getting data, trends and best practices to one another as we attack the movement of illicit funds through the economy.

After more than 30 years in this unique area of law, regulation and policy, I know the need for working in tandem is stronger than ever.

AT: What are some notable examples of successful public-private partnerships?

JB: Next year will be the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and I will leave to others who can be much more articulate about the impact of that devastating morning. For me, I remember the immediate response of bankers and LE officials as they compared information on those horrific attacks and their compelling collaboration that changed how related data would be assessed forever. The bankers simply asked their partners, “What do you need from us?” and LE shared trends and typologies to improve the AML and counter-terrorist financing infrastructure. No one complained or said it was too difficult because the goal was clear.

It should also be noted that the financial sector worked closely with Congress as they were rapidly passing the USA PATRIOT Act, fully supportive of new tools for LE.

In addition, while we accept the premise that the financial sector is now actively involved in detection, identification and investigation of human trafficking, that was not always the case. In one of the clearest examples of a community responding to a societal problem, several AML officials approached us at ACAMS and pointed out that their staffs believed that the overwhelming crime of human trafficking could be tracked if their institutions could share relevant financial information. We decided, as a group, to bring together analysts from LE and financial institutions and compile red flag indicators to share with the broader AML community. The partnership created then continues to this day in other examples such as the financial sector working side by side with Polaris and other anti-trafficking organizations.

AT: What are some other ways the private sector can partner with LE?

JB: A broader example of partnering is LE’s work in training and outreach. Sure, having an agent participating at an ACAMS or other conference assists the agency, but it gives our community much more than it takes. In fact, any program that does not include an LE representative is not serving the community. The FBI, IRS and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have improved any program I have had the pleasure of being involved in for 30 years. At the local level, there are additional examples where agents would put groups of corporate security officers together and let them know about regional crime trends—an invaluable resource.

AT: Do you have any recommendations for continued public- private partnerships in AML and beyond?

JB: While we already have the strong support of the LE community, it is important that we consider how to improve our relationships. For me, there are some things I have learned along the way that can be helpful in ensuring the value proposition of public-private partnerships.

A local example of partnership is my colleague and active ACAMS member Steve Gurdak, the group supervisor of the Northern Virginia Financial Initiative who manages the suspicious activity report review team in the region. Steve has for many years held monthly meetings with financial crime professionals in and out of government for networking and learning sessions on a whole host of issues. Steve encourages interaction and sharing of contact information and we all gain from the knowledge exchanged. If you do not already have such a vehicle, getting partners together is a mutual goal that can easily be reached.

In my earlier days of working in the financial crime prevention space, I saw firsthand the partnering that occurred in state banking associations around the country. Seminars, monthly or quarterly events would be held with bankers and LE, and one of the main events would be awards to institution staff that had worked closely with police or other agencies on white-collar cases, as well as agents being recognized by the private sector for their work. These acknowledgements were never trivial but sent a strong message of cooperation that assisted in explaining to senior management the value of these partnerships.

Any program that does not include an LE representative is not serving the community

The ACAMS Today  LE edition was designed to have the same impact and I hope it has.

Here’s to the next 10 years! Thank you to our partners. Let’s Stay Together!1

Interviewed by: ACAMS editorial staff, ACAMS, Miami, FL, USA,

  1. “Let’s Stay Together,” a 1971 song by Al Green that was voted the 60th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.

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