FinCEN Expands, Renews Geographic Targeting Orders; Thanks ALTA, Industry for Continued Help

May 3, 2022

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) expanded and renewed its Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) that require U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate.

The terms of the GTOs are effective beginning April 30 and ending Oct. 26.  The GTOs continue to provide valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons possibly involved in various illicit enterprises. Renewing the GTOs will further assist in tracking illicit funds and other criminal or illicit activity, as well as inform FinCEN’s future regulatory efforts in this sector.

FinCEN renewed the GTOs that cover certain counties within the following major U.S. metropolitan areas:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Honolulu
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York City
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle

FinCEN, working in conjunction with law enforcement partners, identified additional regions that present greater risks for illicit finance activity through all-cash purchases of residential real estate. 

The expanded geographic coverage of the GTOs now includes parts of the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, Maryland (DMV) metropolitan area, the Hawaiian Islands of Maui, Hawaii and Kauai, and Fairfield County, Conn.  The purchase amount threshold remains $300,000 for each covered metropolitan area, with the exception of the city and county of Baltimore, where the purchase threshold is $50,000.

FinCEN said it appreciates the continued assistance and cooperation of title insurance companies and ALTA in protecting real estate markets from abuse by illicit actors.

FinCEN began issuing GTOs in January 2016 requiring title insurance companies to file reports and maintain records concerning all-cash purchases of residential real estate above a certain threshold in select metropolitan areas of the United States. The GTOs have been renewed and expanded over the past five years.

A currency transaction report must be filed with FinCEN if these things occur:

  • Location (deal occurs in one of the areas included in the GTOs)
  • All-cash deal (no financing)
  • Purchase price exceeds $300,000, or $50,000 in city and county of Baltimore
  • There’s a corporate buyer
  • Purchase price paid via monetary instrument, wire transfer or virtual currencies

The report must include:

  • Information about the identity of the individual primarily responsible for representing the buyer. The title company must obtain a record of the individual’s driver’s license, passport of other similar identification
  • Date of closing of the covered transaction
  • Total amount transferred in the form of a monetary instrument
  • Total purchase price of the covered transaction
  • Address of real property involved

If the purchase involved in the covered transaction is a limited liability company, the underwriter must provide the name, address and taxpayer identification number of all its members. Additionally, covered title companies must retain all records relating to compliance with the order for five years, store the records so they are accessible with a reasonable period of time and make the data available to FinCEN or other law enforcement or regulatory agency, upon request. Under the Bank Secrecy Act, covered businesses must retain all records relating to compliance with the GTOs for at least five years from the last day that the GTOs are effective (including any renewals).

ALTA submitted a letter to FinCEN in response to the agency’s potential rule that would address the vulnerability of the U.S. real estate market to money laundering and other illicit activity.

The Biden administration is looking to expand reporting requirements to address bad actors’ use of the real estate market to launder money made through illegal means. The effort for new real estate market regulation comes as part of Biden’s U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, which highlights the money laundering risks in the U.S. real estate market, as well as the need to protect the sector from abuse from corrupt officials and illicit actors. The potential regulation published by FinCEN would expand reporting requirements on all-cash real estate deals.

In its letter, ALTA recommended FinCEN develop tailored and specific transaction reporting requirements for the all-cash real estate transactions involving corporate entities, instead of imposing a traditional anti-money laundering regime like those imposed on banks. ALTA also said FinCEN should finalize regulations for the development of a beneficial ownership database required under the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) before taking further actions that would add additional burdens to the title insurance industry.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or