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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver

Representing the 5th District of MISSOURI

Reps. Cleaver, Hollingsworth, Foster, Hill Hold Bipartisan Briefing with FinCEN Director, Cleaver Questions Director on Facebook's Planned Cryptocurrency

Jun 27, 2019
Press Release
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth Blanco briefed members on Bureau's use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy, Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), Bill Foster (D-IL), and French Hill (R-AR) led a bipartisan briefing with members of the House Financial Services Committee and FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco. The briefing was held to discuss FinCEN’s use of AI and ML technology to detect illicit financial activity and how the bureau is working with regulators to encourage the use of these technologies among financial institutions.

“With the evolution of virtual currencies and new marketplaces, nefarious actors are continuously adapting to find new ways to engage in illegal financial activity,” said Congressman Cleaver. “Now that we’re seeing a giant corporation like Facebook—which has already shown an inability to identify and impede these kinds of actors at an acceptable level—creating its own virtual currency called Libra, it cannot be understated the importance of Congress and financial transmitters to be proactive in utilizing the newest and most powerful technologies to ensure the financial system is not being used improperly. I believe we had a fruitful discussion on some ways the United States can do just that.”

“I appreciated Director Blanco and his team for sharing the Bureau’s ongoing efforts to use AI/ML to combat money laundering and to collaborate with both financial institutions and technology providers to help strengthen our financial system,” Congressman Hollingsworth said.

“FinCEN’s work is critical to our national security and the prevention of illegal activities such as money laundering and illicit financing. It was great to see their proactive engagement in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence in order to do their job better. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues to ensure FinCEN has the resources it needs to effectively carry out its mission,” said Rep. Foster.

Rep. Cleaver has been an ardent advocate for companies and federal regulators to do more in stemming the use of virtual currencies in illegal activities. In February 2018, Cleaver sent a letter to the Bitcoin Foundation and the Chamber of Digital Commerce, calling for these entities to do more to prevent extremist groups from using cryptocurrency to fund campaigns of hate and violence. In July of 2018, Congressman Cleaver sent a letter to FinCEN calling on the bureau to investigate the cryptocurrency industry following revelations from the Mueller investigation that Russian intelligence officials were using cryptocurrencies to interfere in the 2016 election. The letter also called for the bureau to “articulate further guidance to help prevent financial crimes” like the ones used in Russian interference efforts. In March of 2019, Congressman Cleaver sent another letter to FinCEN Director Blanco, requesting a briefing on the ongoing work of the bureau and next steps.

When questioning Director Blanco today, Congressman Cleaver focused on Facebook’s planned virtual currency called “Libra.” “Calibra,” a subsidiary of Facebook that will offer digital wallets for storing Libras, registered with FinCEN as a money services business in February. Money services businesses transmit and convert money and are subject to oversight by financial regulators such as FinCEN.

“We’ve seen the significant damage that foreign adversaries and bad actors have wrought on our democracy through Facebook’s platform, and that was simply through messaging and advertising,” said Congressman Cleaver. “Before we allow such a giant corporation to begin processing millions to billions of financial transactions, we have to study these issues and ensure we have the tools and guardrails in place to deter terrorists, extremists, and/or enemies from utilizing such a platform to do harm to our nation.”

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri's Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee; Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy; member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; member of the Committee on Homeland Security; and a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. For more information, please contact Matthew Helfant at 202-225-4535 or Matthew.Helfant@mail.house.gov A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.