Bank secrecy laws and the individual civil right of financial privacy generally, originated decades ago in a simpler time, when the electronic wire transfer did not exist and sophisticated economic criminals did not regularly take advantage of the international bank payments system. Today, however, when most countries are linked together in what is known as the global economy, bank secrecy laws and the related sovereignty, political, and economic concerns of individual nations all too often impede and frustrate legitimate criminal investigations and prosecutions of money laundering and other international economic crime. The problem that bank secrecy poses for law enforcement was identified twenty-five years ago by Robert M. Morgenthau, currently the District Attorney of the County of New York and former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Richard T. Preiss, Privacy of Financial Information and Civil Rights Issues: The Implications for Investigating and Prosecuting International Economic Crime, 14 Penn St. Int'l L. Rev. 525 (1996).