Exclusive: U.S. anti-money laundering authority faces hiring probe - sources

Fri May 2, 2014 7:32pm EDT
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By Emily Flitter and Brett Wolf

NEW YORK/ST LOUIS (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department temporarily froze all recruitment by its anti-money laundering arm and forced the agency to rescind 11 job offers, after an investigation found it violated the federal employment code during an aggressive hiring push, according to several government officials.

The Office of Personnel Management, a federal agency that governs labor practices in the government, determined that the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, illegally screened candidates in a quest to hire only lawyers for certain jobs, the officials said. It has recommended further investigations by two other federal agencies into FinCEN's practices, they added.

Rules for hiring at government agencies make it illegal to screen candidates for qualifications that aren't stipulated in the job description, and the jobs FinCEN had posted weren't designated as being only for lawyers, the officials said.

Some senior Treasury officials knew about FinCEN's practice but it was not halted until OPM identified the problem, two of the sources said. Treasury sent a memo to FinCEN suspending its hiring authority, one of the sources said.

A Treasury spokeswoman, ​Hagar Chemali, said on Thursday that FinCEN is "committed to complying with all relevant federal rules and regulations regarding federal hiring."

On Friday, she said, "FinCEN does not have a hiring freeze. It is continuing to recruit and hire."

Chemali declined to comment on the memo or provide further explanation.

It was not clear when the hiring freeze first came in and when it was lifted. The agency now has three jobs posted on its website, with one listed as opening for applications on May 1 and one on May 2.   Continued...

Director of the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Jennifer Shasky Calvery speaks to media announces two felony charges against JPMorgan Chase Bank during a press conference in New York January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Allison Joyce