Don’t Let Banks Butt Into Your Business!

You have only three weeks left to protest the federal government’s latest attack on your personal privacy.

by F.R. Duplantier

“Because of executive mandates and poorly drafted legislation, physicians no longer have the freedom to keep their patients’ medical conditions secret,” reports Lisa Dean of the Free Congress Foundation. “That information must be entered into federal databases to which various agencies have access, supposedly to combat insurance fraud.” That’s just one example of the federal government’s ongoing campaign to invade the privacy of its citizens. “Employers must now file reports with the Department of Health and Human Services each time they hire a new full- or part-time employee,” Dean continues. “Those reports contain personal information which the federal government will keep in a database . . . [ostensibly] to catch deadbeat parents as they move from job to job or state to state.”

Not content with prying into our medical and employment records, the federal government wants unrestricted access to our financial records as well. “Now, a similar system of categorizing citizens is being established at federal banking agencies for the alleged purpose of combatting money laundering and drug running,” Dean warns. “On December 7, 1998, the Federal Reserve, along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, each published their own versions of proposed regulations in the Federal Register outlining their new profiling systems. . . . The plan, entitled ‘Know Your Customer,’ [establishes] a federal mandate with which all FDIC-insured banks as well as non-member financial institutions must comply.”

Dean outlines the major components of the “Know Your Customer” plan, which will apply to all financial institutions, FDIC-insured or not. “Identification will be required to conduct bank activity,” she observes. “Any customer who refuses to identify himself will not be permitted to conduct business at that bank. The bank will monitor all account holder activity,” she adds. “Electronic transactions will be logged into an information database and compared with the profile already established on that customer by the bank.” The purpose of the monitoring, Dean explains, is to detect any deviations from the customer’s “usual pattern of activity” in the size and frequency of his deposits and withdrawals. “A deviation,” she warns, “will result in the filing of a ‘suspicious activity’ report by the bank on that account holder.”

If you want to preserve the privacy of your financial records, now is the time to protest. “Comments will be taken from the public by these agencies until March 8th,” Lisa Dean emphasizes. “The agencies have reported receiving over 2,700 letters from the public in opposition to their ‘Know Your Customer’ proposed regulations within the first four days of their being published in the Federal Register.” Dean urges all Americans concerned about this threat to their financial privacy to speak out. Write to the FDIC at 550 17th Street NW, Washington DC 20429, fax your comments to 202-898-3838, or e-mail them to comments@fdic.org.

Week of: Feb. 14, 1999