HARRISBURG (Dec. 12, 2022) – Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) President Jay N. Silberblatt has issued the following statement supporting U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, for his opposition to including the ENABLERS Act amendment in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The ENABLERS Act would change the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)’s definition of “financial institution” to include lawyers and law firms that provide legal services to clients involving company formation, trust services, acquiring or disposing of interests in those entities, and many other specified financial activities. It would also require the Treasury Department to issue new regulations that could subject these lawyers and law firms to some or all of the BSA’s requirements for financial institutions. This could force lawyers to submit Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on their clients’ financial transactions (without notifying the clients); identify and verify clients’ accounts to the government; establish due diligence policies that could conflict with state supreme court rules; create costly and burdensome new anti-money laundering programs within law firms; and undergo periodic or random audits to assess compliance.
“On behalf of the lawyers of Pennsylvania, I thank Senator Toomey for his support of Pennsylvania’s lawyers, clients and courts through his ongoing opposition to including the ENABLERS Act in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The PBA very much appreciates his efforts.
“We are relieved that the ENABLERS Act has been omitted from the final NDAA, and we strongly urge Senator Toomey to continue to object to any effort to attach it to any other legislation, including the omnibus spending package that may soon be considered by Congress.
“The PBA joins the ongoing efforts by the ABA and many other state and local bars throughout the nation in calling on Senate and House leaders to oppose the ENABLERS Act amendment because it would impose a major regulatory burden on law firms and cause great harm to confidential lawyer-client relationships. The amendment would undermine lawyers’ current ability to prevent money laundering and other illicit activities and would weaken the attorney-client privilege and lawyers’ ethical duty to protect client confidentiality. In addition, it would adversely affect clients’ fundamental right to the effective assistance of counsel and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s inherent authority to regulate and oversee the legal profession.
“The PBA is grateful that Sen. Toomey and his Senate Banking Committee staff have stood up for these important principles, protected the rights of lawyers, law firms, clients and courts throughout Pennsylvania and the nation, and taken steps to guard against erosion of legal protections and the ability of lawyers to effectively represent their clients by maintaining confidentiality.”
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state's largest organized bar association.