One of the biggest challenges when writing the narrative for a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is to be able to balance writing in a way that someone reading the SAR can determine if additional action needs to take place and writing in a way that provides too many details. This is especially true for a continuing SAR where the activity on the current SAR is consistent with activity that was included in prior SAR filings. The concern is whether information that was included on a prior SAR should again be included in the narrative, or whether this information is considered redundant. Fortunately for BSA Officers, FinCEN has provided some guidance as to what should be included in the narrative of a continuing SAR filing.
Continuing SAR Overview
A continuing SAR filing is basically a follow-up SAR that includes ongoing suspicious activity that continues during a period directly following a period of time covered by a prior SAR filing. Rather than requiring financial institutions to file a SAR for every suspicious transaction that occurs by a customer where a SAR has already been filed, FinCEN permits a “continuing activity” SAR that covers a 90 day period. This helps to reduce the quantity of SARs filed while also ensuring that FinCEN is receiving appropriate updates on customers that engage in suspicious activity.
When completing the narrative of an initial SAR filing, financial institutions often include as much information as possible in order to explain the suspicious activity to the reader of the SAR. On the other hand, a continuing SAR may not have much new information to offer, though the existing information still applies. Therefore, BSA Officers often struggle to know how much information is too much and what information is essential to the SAR filing.
The Narrative for a Continuing SAR
Over the years, FinCEN has worked to provide clarity as to their expectations for the SAR narrative on a continuing SAR filing. In their guidance, FinCEN states that a narrative must include the aggregated date range of all SARs, but a financial institution may reference each prior SAR with corresponding dates and dollar amounts. In addition, FinCEN has stated that they do not want all information that was included in previous filings to be included in the continuous SAR filing.
The following is what FinCEN has said on this topic.
FinCEN Guidance on Continuing SAR Narratives
From the SAR Activity Review, Issue 4 (August 2002):
Part V - Suspicious Activity Information Explanation/Description may reference prior SARs filed with corresponding dates and dollar amounts, in addition to a detailed explanation/description of the known or suspected violation of law or suspicious activity. For more detailed instructions on other items that should be included in this area, please see the instructions on the SAR form or Preparation Guidelines For Suspicious Activity Report Form dated June 2000 which can be found on FinCEN’s website at www.fincen.gov /sarguidelinesv4.doc
From the official instructions on completing a Suspicious Activity Report:
Item *27 Date or date range of suspicious activity for this report: Enter the suspicious activity date or date range for this report. If the suspicious activity occurred on a single day, enter that date in field 27a "From" and leave field 27b "To" blank. If the suspicious activity occurred on multiple days, enter the earliest date of suspicious activity in field 27a and the most-recent date of suspicious activity in field 27b. If the exact date(s) of the suspicious activity is (are) unknown, enter a date range that the filer believes will encompass the date(s) of the suspicious activity. Explain the nature of this date range in Part V. If the FinCEN SAR involves continuing activity with box 1c "Continuing activity report" checked, enter only the date range covered by this FinCEN SAR. Record in Part V the aggregated date range of all FinCEN SARs filed on the continuing suspicious activity. Use the format MM/DD/CCYY for dates in a discrete FinCEN SAR and the format MMDDCCYY for dates in a batch-filed FinCEN SAR.
Also from the SAR instructions:
4. Continuing Reports: A continuing report should be filed on suspicious activity that continues after an initial FinCEN SAR is filed. Financial institutions with SAR requirements may file SARs for continuing activity after a 90 day review with the filing deadline being 120 days after the date of the previously related SAR filing. Financial institutions may also file SARs on continuing activity earlier than the 120 day deadline if the institution believes the activity warrants earlier review by law enforcement. Continuing reports must be completed in their entirety, including the information about all subjects involved in the suspicious activity and all financial institutions where the activity occurred. The continuing report Part V narrative should include all details of the suspicious activity for the 90-day period encompassed by the report, and only such data from prior reports as is necessary to understand the activity. Do not reproduce the narratives from prior reports in the continuing report. Provide both the dollar amount involved in the suspicious activity for the 90-day period in Item 26 and the cumulative dollar amount for the current and all prior related reports in Item 28. If continuing losses are involved for any financial institution recorded in Part III, record the 90-day loss in Item 63 and the cumulative loss in Part V.
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