Attorney General Edwin Meese III yesterday announced a plan by federal law enforcement officials and financial regulators to crack down on bank fraud, particularly in cases involving bank "insiders."
The program is designed to improve interagency cooperation and effectiveness in detecting, investigating and prosecuting bank fraud cases.
Included in the plan are provisions for more efficient reporting of suspected fraud, for easing some federal privacy laws and for providing special training to bank examiners, fraud investigators and prosecutors.
The plan was developed by a working group representing the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Comptroller of the Currency's Office.
Meese called the interagency agreement "a major step forward" toward restoring public confidence in the nation's financial institutions, which were rocked by 79 bank failures and 27 failures of saving and loans in 1984. That compared with 48 bank failures and 46 thrift failures in 1983, the Justice Department said.
Meese blamed the recent increase in bank failures on "a combination" of economic conditions and an increase in crime.
The Justice Department found in a survey of 75 bank failures from 1980 to 1983 that 61 percent involved "actual or probable criminal misconduct by bank insiders."
Many bank failures "can be prevented through the detection and prevention of fraud," Meese said..
A major feature of the interagency plan is a standard form to be used by financial institutions or bank regulators to notify the FBI and Justice of suspected fraud. The agencies hope the form will improve communication between them by establishing uniform procedures.
The interagency working group is drafting legislative amendments to the Right to Financial Privacy Act that would allow bank regulators and law enforcement agencies to share financial information about suspected fraud without notifying the suspected individuals.
The agencies will maintain the working group to monitor the program. Working group members also will encourage periodic meetings by representatives of their regional or district offices.
The agreement calls for increased and coordinated training for prosecutors, FBI agents and bank examiners.
Meese said the improved interagency cooperation would lead to speedier detection, as well as prevention, of bank fraud. The new form and increased communications will enable bank regulators to involve law enforcement officials in the earlier stages of suspected fraud, he said.
The antifraud strategy comes amid rising concern about the enforcement of banking laws. Bank of Boston Corp. paid a $500,000 fine after pleading guilty to a felony charge of failing to report $1.2 billion in foreign cash transactions.