Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity



December 20, 2016

The Impact of Anti-Money Laundering Regulation on Payment Flows: Evidence from SWIFT Data - Working Paper 445

Regulatory pressure on international banks to fight money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF) increased substantially in the past decade. We find countries that have been added to a high-risk greylist face up to a 10% decline in the number of cross border payments received from other jurisdictions, but no change in the number sent. We also find that a greylisted country is more likely to see a decline in payments from other countries with weak AML/CFT institutions. We find limited evidence that these effects manifest in cross border trade or other flows. Given that countries that are placed on these lists tend to be poorer on average, these impacts are likely to be more strongly felt in developing countries.

Flickr user Kigali Wire -
November 9, 2015

Unintended Consequences of Anti–Money Laundering Policies for Poor Countries

Money laundering, terrorism financing and sanctions violations by individuals, banks and other financial entities are serious offenses with significant negative consequences for rich and poor countries alike. Governments have taken important steps to address these offenses. Efforts by international organizations, the US, UK and others to combat money laundering and curb illicit financial flows are a necessary step to increase the safety of the financial system and improve security, both domestically and around the world. But the policies that have been put in place to counter financial crimes may also have unintentional and costly consequences, in particular for people in poor countries. Those most affected are likely to include the families of migrant workers, small businesses that need to access working capital or trade finance, and recipients of life-saving aid in active-conflict, post-conflict or post-disaster situations. And sometimes, current policies may be self-defeating to the extent that they reduce the transparency of financial flows.