Welcome Remarks to US-MENA Private Sector Dialogue Conference

October 15, 2019
Posted October 17, 2019
Michael Held, Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Remarks to US-MENA Private Sector Dialogue Conference, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York City As prepared for delivery

Hello everyone – I’m Michael Held, an Executive Vice President and the General Counsel at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1

I would like to welcome you to the New York Fed and to our latest US-MENA (Middle East North Africa) Private Sector Dialogue Conference entitled “The Challenge & Opportunities for MENA Banks – Understanding and Meeting US Regulatory Expectations and the Expectations of Their Correspondents.” The New York Fed is honored to host this event with the International Monetary Fund and the Union of Arab Banks (UAB), with support from the Department of the Treasury.

The New York Fed first partnered with the Treasury and the Union of Arab Banks in December 2006, when we hosted the initial Private Sector Dialogue Conference between U.S. authorities, MENA banks, and their regulators. Our most recent US-MENA Private Sector Dialogue Conference was two years ago in this spot and its success set the stage for today’s event.

I am happy to continue this critical dialogue. I am a major supporter of collaboration among banks, regulators, and law enforcement in the effort to fight terrorist financing and financial crimes. I hope to keep today’s productive dialogue going in the years to come.

The New York Fed is very pleased to provide the venue for this year’s event focusing on anti-money laundering (AML) and other issues related to the prevention of financial crime. These issues affect the dynamics of correspondent relationships around the world. This conference plays a vital role in enhancing coordination between U.S. banks and banks headquartered in the Middle East, and encouraging well-controlled correspondent banking relationships. In doing so, this conference promotes U.S. dollar liquidity in this critical region of the world.

The New York Fed fully supports the US-MENA partnership to improve communication, transparency, and understanding regarding expectations between respondents and their correspondents, so as to minimize the unnecessary de-risking of accounts. Everyone here will agree that there is no benefit to chasing money from the banking sector to illicit third-parties, such as unlicensed hawalas. These transactions stymie transparency in the financial sector. Hopefully, with patience, better understanding of each other’s regulatory environment, and focused attention and resources, banks represented at today’s conference can enhance and expand correspondent relationships that are effective, efficient, and well controlled.

The New York Fed’s AML efforts started in earnest over 30 years ago. For more than 25 years, we have been working with and supporting foreign regulators, and U.S. law enforcement on parallel enforcement matters. The New York Fed’s enforcement attorneys work with our colleagues at the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., and play an important role in financial regulatory investigations. We also help build strong coordination between the Fed, domestic and foreign regulators, and our partners in law enforcement. Many of the Fed’s enforcement actions have involved high-profile sanctions evasion cases and AML system deficiencies.

But we don’t just want to punish bad activity. It is important to promote increased transparency and compliance with U.S. regulations and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) goals. My colleagues and I are committed to helping financial institutions stay out of regulatory trouble by hosting high-quality AML training like today’s conference. Everyone will be able take away a few new ideas, and the contacts you develop here may help enhance a current correspondent relationship, or even lead to new relationships.

We have an excellent agenda, featuring true experts in the field. I am especially happy to welcome our esteemed Treasury colleague, Mr. Paul Ahern, the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. He will be joined by his colleague, and our old friend, Mr. Jamal El-Hindi, the Deputy Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), as well as other officials from the Treasury department.

I am also very honored to welcome governors from many central banks, including Egypt, Lebanon, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Tunisa, and Yemen, in addition to other senior representatives who have traveled from the Middle East. We also have two representatives from the IMF—Stéphane Roudet and Arz El-Murr—who are our co-hosts today.

Finally, I would like to thank Wissam Fattouh, the Secretary General of the UAB, Mounir Al-Akhal, the Deputy Director for International Affairs, and Muhammad Baasiri, the Chairman for this event, and a long time representative from the Central Bank of Lebanon. They have had the primary responsibilities for making this event a reality.

Now I have the great pleasure and honor of introducing Dr. Joseph Torbey, Chairman of the World Union of Arab Banks. Dr. Torbey has led that group, which aims to establish a network of communication and solid relations among Arab bankers and finance professionals, since 2006. In addition, he has served as Chairman and General Manager of the Credit Libanais since 1988, and as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the UAB since May 2007. He also chaired the Board of UAB for two consecutive mandates from April 2001-2007. Dr. Torbey is also the former Chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, a position he held for many mandates (2001-2005, 2009-2013, and 2015-2019).

Dr. Torbey earned a Ph.D. in law from the University of Lyon (France) and has followed extensive studies in public administration and business taxation at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Torbey.

1 The views I express are my own, not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System.

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