The Task Force on the Gatekeeper Regulation and the Profession was created in February 2002 by ABA President Robert E. Hirshon to address the "Gatekeeper Initiative." The "Gatekeeper" initiative originates from the Moscow Communiqué issued at the 1999 meeting of the G-8 Finance Ministers that called upon countries to consider various means to address money laundering through the efforts of professional gatekeepers of the international financial system including lawyers.
In recent years, the fight against money laundering has gained importance in the priorities of many countries. Moved by the Financial Action Task Force ("FATF"), the leading global organization in the fight against money laundering, governments from countries that comprise the principal financial centers have worked collaboratively to identify money laundering typologies, develop recommendations on best practices to combat money laundering, criminalize money laundering around the world, and encourage cooperation among national law enforcement and regulation agencies. Following the Moscow Communiqué, FATF created a working group which has identified several professions (auditors, accountants, lawyers) as "gatekeepers" with respect to money laundering. On May 31, 2002, FATF published a consultation paper entitled "Review of the FATF 40 Recommendations" in which the FATF identifies several areas where possible changes could be made to the FATF anti-money laundering framework. The broad topics covered concern customer due diligence and suspicious transaction reporting, beneficial ownership and control of corporate vehicles, and the application of anti-money laundering obligations to non-financial businesses and professions, including the legal profession.
In the United States, the Money Laundering and Financial Crime Strategy Act of 1998 obligates the Justice and Treasury Departments to issue an annual "National Money Laundering Strategy Report," outlining a plan of action to enhance U.S. anti-money laundering efforts. The report for 2000 tasked the Justice Department with reviewing the professional responsibilities of lawyers and making recommendations "ranging from enhanced professional education, standards, or rules, or legislation, as may be needed." A similar theme was set forth in the report for 2001. An inter-agency working group was established, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network. This inter-agency group is charged with developing a U.S. position on the Gatekeeper Initiative.