Ask why ABA is against two-party anti-money laundering rules before renewing your membership


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exist More than 1.3 million lawyers are actively practicing in the United States of America. When an organization tries to speak on behalf of a large group of people, there will necessarily be some level of opposition within the ranks.

However, when I revealed the print version of Wall Street Journal Last weekend (yes, I know, old school), I couldn’t help but to surprise me when I learned that the American Bar One of the few groups left standing in the way of seemingly important bipartisan anti-money laundering legislation. According to the Wall Street Journal – which is largely trustworthy, regarding such things – “several illicit finance experts” say this legislation will fill “one of the biggest loopholes in US anti-money laundering rules”. Could opposition to such a measure really serve the interests of ABA?

Proponents of so-called beneficial ownership legislation have sought out for decades, but have previously been frustrated by powerful interest groups, including the ABA and the US Chamber of Commerce. Under current law, federal companies are not obligated to report the true owners who benefit from the business efforts. The new measure would create a registry in the Treasury Department, accessible to law enforcement but not the general public, and would require companies to hand over real identities to the business owners (who were previously allowed to remain anonymous). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently dropped its opposition to the measure, after members of Congress addressed the chamber’s privacy concerns. The Chamber now supports pending usufruct ownership legislation.

This makes ABA one of the few large advocacy organizations still opposing utilitarian property legislation. Now, ABA is quick to point out that other groups are against these new reporting rules, that is, a number of small business groups. in a 2019 speech to lawmakers, The president of ABA cited three other reasons for ABA’s alleged opposition to beneficial ownership legislation: it would impose burdensome regulatory requirements on small businesses, raise privacy concerns for small businesses and those designated as beneficial owners, and reporting requirements for beneficial federal ownership are redundant and unnecessary (This is not true in the strict sense).

The The American Bar Association does not claim to only serve its members, But also “equally” that take into account the audience and the profession as a whole:

Our mission is to serve our members, our profession and the public equally by defending freedom and achieving justice as a national representative of the legal profession.

Any patriotic American waives a small business flag from time to time, but reporting basic details like name, birthdate, and address to people who are already reaping the business benefits doesn’t seem like it would be a crush on a local dojo or whatever. And it’s a bit baffling to me why ABA wants to continue this fight anyway now that the American Chamber of Commerce is on board. I don’t see “Small Business Owners” in ABA’s mission statement (although some ABA members and audience members are definitely small business owners, advocating for this subset of groups is no more important than it is to promote the interests of dungeon professors, Instagrammers, or any groups Another distinct subset within the groups that ABA seeks to serve). ABA raised a host of other concerns with this type of legislation More than two decades of opposition, including that this is supposed to affect the confidentiality of the attorney-client relationship, but the recent proposal does not impose any new regulations specifically on attorneys (or even mention attorneys, for that matter).

Could it be that part of ABA’s really, perhaps only, concern is that the benefit ownership law will cost some attorneys some work? Perhaps in setting up businesses that do not have to tell the federal government who to benefit from?

At any rate, Mitch McConnell promised that the Senate would pass the annual defense bill Which contains the new anti-money laundering measure, despite Trump’s threat to veto. Initial bills were passed in both houses of Congress with a veto majority.

There is not much that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. But if they can agree that money laundering is a bad thing and that measure will help prevent it (and if Trump appears to be against it, that is another surefire sign of good policy), then ABA might be wrong.


Jonathan Wolf is a litigation assistant for a mid-sized full-service Minnesota corporation. He also teaches as Assistant Professor of Writing at Mitchell Hamlin School of Law, has written for a variety of publications, and makes his work and the pleasure of being a financial and scientific learner. It is possible that any opinions he expresses would be pure gold, but nonetheless his own and should not be attributed to any organization he belongs to. He doesn’t want to share the balance anyway. It can be reached at jon_wolf@hotmail.com.


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