FinCEN Targets Shell Companies Purchasing Luxury Properties

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) today announced the issuance of revised Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) that require U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies used to pay for high-end residential real estate in seven metropolitan areas.

Following the recent enactment of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, FinCEN is revising the GTOs to capture a broader range of transactions and include transactions involving wire transfers. FinCEN also expanded the GTOs to include transactions conducted in the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii.

In addition, FinCEN today published an Advisory to provide financial institutions and the real estate industry with information on the money laundering risks associated with real estate transactions, including those involving luxury property purchased through shell companies, particularly when conducted without traditional financing.

Such transactions are vulnerable to abuse by criminals seeking to launder illegal proceeds and mask their identities. The Advisory provides information on how to detect and report these transactions to FinCEN. “Through this advisory and other outreach to the private sector, FinCEN, industry, and law enforcement will be better positioned to protect the real estate markets from serving as a vehicle to launder illicit proceeds,” said FinCEN Acting Director Jamal El-Hindi. “FinCEN also thanks Congress for its modification of the Geographic Targeting Order authority, the first use of which will enable FinCEN to collect further information to combat the potential misuse of shell companies to purchase luxury real estate.”