How Effective are those Draconian Banking Privacy Laws?

Do you want Financial Privacy?

Many people are surprised to find out that the USA actually provides better financial privacy than most other developed countries, and even better than most “tax havens”.

It is my considered opinion that some of the best banking privacy in the world is now found in the United States of America. As long as you are not “laundering money” (the vague definition does cover a lot of ground) or supporting national security threats, the US provides some of the most strictly ENFORCED privacy rules around. Notice my emphasis on the word ENFORCED.

There are many jurisdictions that have such amazingly draconian bank privacy laws that you wonder why anyone would ever take the risk of becoming a banker in those countries. I am thinking of one small country where even a minor disclosure released through mistake can result in jail time and fines for the banker, at least under the terms of its laws. Wow! That must mean that your money and your information are safe!

Well let us look at how often these laws are enforced. After all no one is perfect. In the country I am thinking of there has never been, to my knowledge, a single banker prosecuted under the draconian bank privacy laws. Not even a slap-on-the-wrist or a probated sentence. Either bankers in that country never make mistakes, or the laws are never enforced.

What good are bank privacy laws that are not enforced?

In the USA on the other hand bank privacy laws are enforced (to the chagrin of most of my banker friends) by a bevy of alphabet soup Federal, State and Local agencies whose only reason to exist is to enforce various consumer protection laws, banking disclosure rules and credit protection regulations.

In addition to all the government agencies looking to enforce these rules (and levy punitive fines that go to fund their activities), the laws themselves almost always give the victim the right to sue the bank in civil court with punitive damages and attorney’s fees awarded. I know a lawyer who specializes in class-action law suits against banks who violate these consumer protection rules.

Because of these consumer protection laws combined with vigorous government enforcement, US Banking has become some of the most private in the world in spite of the rather sinister reputation of the Patriot Act.