Understanding the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986: A Guide for AML Compliance Professionals

Money laundering poses a significant threat to the integrity of the financial system, allowing illicit funds to be used freely without detection. While combating money laundering has been an ongoing challenge, significant legislative efforts have been made, notably with the enactment of the Money Laundering Control Act (MLCA) of 1986. This article provides an overview of the MLCA and outlines essential steps for AML compliance professionals to fortify their institutions against money laundering risks.

The Impetus for the Money Laundering Control Act

The 1980s witnessed a surge in illicit cash flows, fueled by the influx of cocaine into the U.S. and the ensuing crack epidemic. Additionally, financial crises and the failure of savings and loan associations contributed to a rise in white-collar crime. In response to these challenges, Congress passed the MLCA in 1986, criminalizing money laundering and addressing new evasion tactics such as structuring.

Requirements Under the Money Laundering Control Act

The MLCA comprises two distinct sections within Title 18 of the United States Code. Section 1956 criminalizes active engagement in money laundering, while Section 1957 prohibits financial transactions involving proceeds from unlawful activities. The MLCA also introduced criminal and civil forfeiture for Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) violations, emphasizing the importance of compliance with reporting and record-keeping requirements.

Jurisdiction and Enforcement of the Money Laundering Control Act

Unlike the BSA, the MLCA has extensive extraterritorial jurisdiction, applying to U.S. citizens and noncitizens involved in money laundering worldwide. While enforcement primarily targets individuals engaged in money laundering, recent cases have involved criminal resolutions with virtual currency exchanges for AML violations.

Steps That Financial Institutions Should Take to Prevent Money Laundering

Financial institutions play a crucial role in combating money laundering and must implement robust measures to prevent financial crime. Key steps include maintaining compliance with BSA/AML regulations, establishing effective internal controls, conducting thorough customer due diligence, and continuously monitoring for suspicious activity. Additionally, institutions should prioritize staff training, independent testing of AML compliance programs, and regular risk assessments.


Legislation such as the MLCA forms a critical component of efforts to combat money laundering and safeguard the financial system. AML compliance professionals can enhance these efforts by implementing sound compliance practices and leveraging advanced AML software solutions like Ahrvo Comply. Ahrvo Comply offers a range of features, including ID verification, transaction monitoring, watchlist screening, risk scoring, file sharing, eSignature, OCR, case management, and automated regulatory reporting, to help organizations effectively combat money laundering.

In summary, proactive measures and robust compliance frameworks are essential in the fight against money laundering. To learn more about how Ahrvo Comply can support your organization’s AML efforts, contact us today.

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