What is the NDAA?
The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes fiscal year 2021 funding for the Defense Department and Energy Department’s national-security programs, including a 3% pay raise for U.S. troops. It also includes items related to anti-money-laundering efforts, cybersecurity, overseas military commitments, Space Force and the U.S. border wall.
What are some other notable provisions in the NDAA?
• One requires law-enforcement officers and members of the Armed Forces to clearly identify themselves and their agency or service during crowd control or while arresting people involved in civil disobedience in the U.S.
• The NDAA also restricts the makeup of the U.S. Space Force , by barring involuntary shifts of military personnel to the new service. While Space Force leaders have talked up the level of interest among current officers and Air Force Academy graduates, the measure explicitly prohibits involuntary transfers of military or civilian personnel to bulk up or boost the expertise of the force. Lawmakers also seek to limit transfer of military facilities to the Space Force without prior congressional blessing.
• It includes language requiring companies in the U.S. to register their true owners, a significant update to U.S. anti-money-laundering rules.
• This year’s NDAA also limits how much money can be used on an emergency military construction—an authority Mr. Trump used to repurpose funds for the border wall.
• The NDAA also adds Parkinsonism, bladder cancer and hypothyroidism to the presumptive list for exposure to Agent Orange, a change advocates say could ensure more than 34,000 veterans get access to VA care and benefits connected to their exposure to the herbicide used during the Vietnam War.
Sen. Sherrod Brown: New defense bill provision will crack down on crooks’ money laundering
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said a provision included in a defense policy bill will help law enforcement more easily root out who is behind shell corporations used to launder money for criminal enterprises.
The provision was included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress, Brown said. It would change anti-money laundering laws to make it harder for criminals to use U.S. financial institutions and require corporations and limited liability companies to report their true beneficiaries to the U.S. Treasury Department.
“No more hiding these abuses in anonymous shell companies. We’re cracking down on big banks that look the other way or in some cases actively aiding money laundering. if you’re helping drug traders hide their illegal fentanyl profits you deserve more than a slap on the wrist,” he said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp said on the call that law enforcement officials need new resources to keep up with evolving criminal enterprises.
“It’s become so sophisticated that we need better tools, stronger tools, for law enforcement to be able to operate and bring people to justice and safeguard our children,” he said.
The bill passed with a veto-proof majority, but Congress would have to vote to override the president.
Brown called Trump’s veto threat a “temper tantrum.”
“We hope the president doesn’t veto, and if he does, we hope the Republicans who voted for it the first time don’t knuckle under the president’s demands,” Brown said.
The northeast Ohio Democrat blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for holding up another coronavirus relief package in Congress. Brown said he is supportive of a $900 billion package being pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, though it is smaller than he would like. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said in a floor speech this week that he is part of the bipartisan group working to craft that bill
Brown said, “I don’t think we wait any longer. We ought to pass it and we ought to stay here until we do.”
He also lauded President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Cleveland Congresswoman Marcia Fudge as his nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said he hopes the department can find ways to build more safe, affordable housing.
“The federal government simply hasn’t stepped up enough,” he said.
The United States Congress Is Set to Do Something…Good and Useful? On a Bipartisan Basis?
The legislature is set to tackle money laundering. Donald Trump has, of course, issued a veto threat, though he says it’s about keeping Confederate names on military bases.
The good people at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the group that spelunks through the deepest, darkest, and rankest caverns of global finance and brings light to the twisted creatures who thrive therein, has some kind words for the U.S. Congress, which apparently has taken steps to solve a serious problem that I did not know even existed.
Lawmakers in the United States say they have taken a significant step closer to enacting a major anti-money laundering reform that would make it more difficult to move dirty money through U.S. firms. Late last week, Democrats in the House and Senate announced that they had included provisions targeting anonymous shell companies into a must-pass national defense spending bill. The move is significant because, unlike many pieces of legislation that languish in Congress, the omnibus bill is often approved on a bipartisan basis to continue funding national defense.
Wait. American companies laundering money for international thieves and mobsters? Unpossible!
A prevalence of anonymous shell companies makes laundering and moving money derived from corruption or other criminal activity easier, and makes the lives of compliance officials and law enforcement harder. This was underscored in ICIJ’s recent FinCEN Files investigation, a global collaboration involving more than 100 media partners around the world examining torrents of suspicious money flowing through major banks. The project was based on leaked U.S. Treasury Department documents detailing more than two trillion dollars flowing through the U.S. financial system. The records showed bank compliance officers searching in vain to determine who was behind shell companies moving massive amounts of money through their firms’ accounts.
Wait for it.
In recent years, the United States has become a prominent destination for tainted money, largely because it has some of the world’s best options for those wanting to cloak their activity behind highly secretive shell companies. The Tax Justice Network, an advocacy group, ranks the United States as the second most secretive jurisdiction on earth, second only to the Cayman Islands, and beating even places like Switzerland that are known for intense banking secrecy. Often owned by opaque LLCs, luxury real estate in posh locations like New York and Miami now rival the classic secretive Swiss bank account for rich customers aiming to hide money.
Luxury real estate, you say? In New York and Florida, you say? Hmmm, provocative, n’est pas?
This new provision is embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act, which the president* is currently saying he will not sign. The public reason for this is that he wants military bases named after Confederate traitors to remain named after Confederate traitors. This is rancid enough. However, the inclusion of anti-laundering provisions such as this one—which has bipartisan support that runs from Senator Mark Warner to Senator Tom Cotton, who is not being a bobble-throated slapstick on this issue—makes one wonder what the president*’s real problem with this year’s NDAA is. It would be wise to keep an eye on this if and when the president* ever gets around to signing or vetoing it, which depends vitally on his willingness to defend the country against something. There is much mischief that yet can be done.