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Civil Asset Forfeiture

A helpful introduction to civil asset forfeiture can be surveyed in the NYT of Oct. 25, 2014. Potential and actual abuse of this legal tool were well highlighted and documented in the Institute for Justice’s Policing for Profit report from Nov. 10, 2015, and attempted federal remedies can be discovered, including H.R. 5212 (113th). Where financial shenanigans are suspected, even where financial crimes cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, civil asset forfeiture remains a powerful mechanism to challenge unexplained accumulations of assets, including cash deposited at financial institutions, under preponderance of evidence standards, a threshold qualitatively and quantitatively lower than reasonable doubt. Allegations of misconduct alluded to by, among other sources, the Panama Papers┬ábecome subject to wide-ranging federal and state powers, especially where the asset implicated is the deposit of U.S. dollars.

The search for suspicious cash accumulations becomes significantly more convenient where digital money is required (e.g., where possession of currency such as U.S. dollar bills is prohibited): There is no need for law enforcement to stop and seize physically – instead, submit an order to seize the account at the depository institution virtually. However, digital money can flow nearly instantaneously, so the regulatory surveillance needs to be timely, anticipating transfers. One can readily infer that the existence of undisclosed principals (e.g., shell companies concealing real beneficial owners such as individuals) will only proliferate as the movement to replace paper currency with digital money gains acceptance among key public policy-makers, especially those with fiscal and monetary oversight of major global currencies such as the U.S. (petro) dollar. Creating a legal but fictitious identity remote from legal process is not just for those seeking to avoid bankruptcy.

Recognizing that emerging trends and potent tools create opportunities in the affected disciplines (e.g., law, accounting, fraud examination, etc.), individuals with a long-term perspective (i.e., extending beyond the horizon of graduation from college) should consider that an important set of knowledge, understanding, and skills in support of these opportunities will continue to be focused on the individual’s ability to search through data, make connections, exercise imagination, and prepare tables, graphs, and narratives that summarize not only quantitative elements such as monetary figures traversing the globe but qualitative relationships such as associations among the illegitimate and legitimate fictive legal persons, their facilitators (e.g., intermediaries such as law and accounting firms, financial institutions, brokers, etc.), and the directing mind / will (i.e., the controlling individual).