DEFINITION of 'Bank Secrecy Act - BSA'

Government legislation that was created in 1970 to prevent financial institutions from being used as tools by criminals to hide or launder their ill-gotten gains. This is achieved by requiring banks and other financial institution to provide documentation (such as currency transaction reports) whenever clients deal with transactions that involve substantial sums of money ($10,000 or more) that appear to be suspicious. This way, authorities have the ability to easily reconstruct the entire situation.

Also known as "Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act".

BREAKING DOWN 'Bank Secrecy Act - BSA'

This is not to say that every transaction exceeding $10,000 is documented. The BSA has a list of exceptions that do not require documentation. Government departments/agencies and companies listed on the major North American exchanges are two examples of exempt parties.

While this act is useful in fighting criminal activity, as with all matters of privacy, the act is somewhat controversial as there are very few guidelines defining what is considered suspicious and law enforcement agencies do not need to get a court order to gain access to the information.

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