“How did we get to where we are today?” That was the key question that Daniel Glaser, principal, Financial Integrity Network, posed during his day two Keynote at the 2017 ACAMS Conference in Las Vegas.

Glazer reflected on the trajectory of the field of illicit finance, from its “birth” in 1986 when the U.S. first criminalized money laundering in an effort to stem the influence of narco traffickers. When the U.S. and a growing list of international partners expanded the reach of anti-money laundering to include more crimes in the 1990s, the field become more complex.

“By the time you get to the late ’90s, you start to see the limits of expansion,” Glazer noted. By that time, he added, countries began to wonder if nations were truly following through with AML efforts, even questioning if efforts were worthwhile when other nations did not have AML policies. Even the IMF and World Bank didn’t support these efforts, believing that AML should be a law enforcement effort.

Like so many other things, that all changed after the 9/11 attacks. AML expanded rapidly to confront terror networks, and more nations came on board to join the effort. From that point forward, as Glaser described, nearly all international actions have some AML dimension to them. And the unchanged AML policy from the Bush into the Obama era meant that the illicit finance architecture would even expand and include more international partners.

But with the Trump Administration, which Glaser admitted has “not been shy” about reversing Obama Administration policy, there seems to not be any move to undo financial policy. But with Trump’s “America First” platform, does that mean this system which relies on international cooperation is at risk?

“If they do, they simply aren’t going to achieve their goals,” Glaser explained, adding that the current situation with North Korea is an example of the need for international cooperation on sanctions.