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20200927 The FinCEN Files - misleading the public and benefiting from criminal conduct

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

There is, at present, a state of excitement amongst the media, some financial crime consultants and some politicians in response to what they are being told is public opinion.

The so-called FinCEN Files were heavily telegraphed in a media blitz more akin to the launch of a Hollywood film that has cost a fortune but the result isn't as good as was hoped.

In the USA and the UK, mainstream media outlets have published a series of articles that, they say, arise because of what it has found in documents obtained illegally from the USA's Financial Intelligence Unit, FinCEN.

No one seems to notice that all those who are profiting from the articles are gaining a benefit from criminal conduct.

That's just one reason why I would not have worked on the FinCEN papers, had I been asked (I wasn't and I'm glad).

First, let me declare an interest. Some 25 years ago, I was the principle point of contact for money laundering, etc. related matters for the BBC (News, Business, World Service and Current Affairs), for Sky News, For The Times, The Financial Times, The European (now defunct and the name is in use by someone else), The Independent, Complinet (which became part of Thompson Reuters Regulatory service and is now divided between TR and Refinitiv) and other newspapers and magazines. I was always at pains, both when briefing journalists and when on air, to be sure that reporting was never sensationalist and that it was complete and balanced. There were often political and Political aspects to the subjects under discussion. Those prejudices also had to be eradicated. The subject was the story.

That has all been upended with the reporting of The FinCEN files. Across the spectrum of mainstream media, the story is the story. A huge public relations campaign, by the outlets that would carry the articles and the group behind the articles, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Balance has been lost: prejudice and a lack of clarity keeps readers interested in the excitement but fails to correctly inform.

I have been consulted by a member of that group in relation to another subject and willingly assisted.

I would not have assisted in relation to the FinCEN files if I had been invited to. To put it simply, it would be against my principles and sense of honour. This is why.

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